2 Program Learning Outcomes and Curriculum Mapping

Program Learning Outcomes

An important component of program review is the collegial review of and revision to program learning outcomes (PLO)—statements that describe the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of program graduates. Over time, PLOs may shift and the program may begin to look less like the program as it was initially designed. As faculty retire and others join, the culture of the program may need to be redefined to match the evolving expertise of the department. New trends and new skills also emerge over time in disciplines and professional fields, along with changes in programmatic accreditation requirements. A careful review of the existing PLOs and curriculum map can lead to program improvements and greater curricular coherency.

Curriculum Mapping

Curriculum mapping offers a visual approach to understanding the program curriculum, including how courses contribute to students’ learning. The curriculum map provides clarity of program and course expectations and clarifies the connections between courses, PLOs, and institutional learning outcomes. In addition, curriculum mapping facilitates assignment and assessment design.

Instructions for Program Review Teams

Timeline: May 15 – August 31

Recommended Submission Date: August 31

  1. Read Module 2 in the Program Review Handbook.
  2. Contact the Teaching and Learning Centre if you need assistance with developing/refining PLOs and curriculum maps.
  3. Save the program curriculum map in a secure place and prepare it for inclusion in the Self-Study Appendices.

Blank Curriculum Mapping Template (xlsx)


The Teaching and Learning Centre is a key partner during Module 2. Ideally, all program faculty members will participate in developing and/or revising PLOs and program curriculum maps. The whole process can be accomplished in roughly six hours over three to four meetings; however, it should be spread over time to allow for reflection, work to be done, and thoughtful responses to be considered.

Development or Refinement of Program Learning Outcomes

There are many ways to develop PLOs and create curriculum maps. We propose one method with a great deal of flexibility in mind.

Table 3.1
Topic Time
PLO Introduction 10 – 30 minutes
Teaching and Learning Centre provides an “Introduction to PLOs” presentation at the beginning of a departmental meeting. This is at the discretion of the department. The introduction can also occur over email.
PLO Brainstorming 5-10 minutes (Option: Survey)


1-2 hours (Option: Collaborative session)

To gather initial thoughts about PLOs, we suggest two options: 1) initiate a survey (see templates); or, 2) facilitate a collaborative brainstorming process using a tool (e.g., Padlet) or in synchronous session. The purpose is to gather input from all department faculty members, and others may be included the discretion of the program team (e.g., students, staff, etc.). The conversation should be driven by program faculty members. When a survey is distributed, Teaching and Learning Centre collects the survey results (typically a one to two-week turnaround) and prepares materials for a PLO workshop with the department.
PLO Sorting, clustering, theming 2-3 hours Working individually, in small groups, and with the large group, department members sort, revise, and consolidate the PLOs into a draft list of approximately 5 to 12 PLOs. Themes and categories may emerge organically from the above process, or departments may already have a pre-defined framework that can serve as categories (e.g., professional and/or accreditation standards). If the program wants, the Teaching and Learning Coordinator can draft preliminary themes based on their reading of the survey data. For online sessions, collaborative tools or whiteboards can be used. For in person, flip chart paper, post-it notes, dot stickers, and markers can be used for this purpose. For hybrid sessions, we recommend using a buddy system (either a faculty member of Teaching and Learning coordinator) with online participants contributing verbally or through the chat feature.
PLO Editing 1-3 hours Faculty revise PLOs, as needed. Keep in mind that the goal is 1 to 2 outcomes per overarching category/theme; and final PLOs should follow this structure: action verb + content area + qualifying phrase. For example: “By the end of this program, students will be able to address two of the TRC Calls to Action through their disciplinary lens.”
Nest Steps   PLOs form the basis of the curriculum mapping activity.

Curriculum Mapping

Topic Time Description
Mapping courses to PLOs 2-3 hours per program Once the department has reached consensus on the PLOs, they engage in curriculum mapping. Teaching and Learning Centre provides an “Introduction to Curriculum Mapping” presentation at the beginning of a departmental meeting. Program will decide which courses will be involved in the mapping (i.e., core, electives, legacy courses, etc.). Course descriptions and course learning outcomes for all courses to be included in the curriculum map are distributed to faculty members for review at least one week in advance of the workshop. Each faculty member will evaluate their courses based on the following questions: 1) Which PLOs are addressed in the course? 2) Does the course Introduce, Reinforce, or assess for Competency in relation to the PLO? 3) Which assessment techniques are used to evaluate achievement of the PLO? As many faculty teaching in the program as possible are required to participate in the workshop. Ideally all faculty will participate. This session is also an opportunity for programs to consider which courses map to the ILOs and/or accreditation standards/competencies/outcomes.
Interpreting the map 30 minutes – 2 hours This session is an opportunity for faculty to examine the strengths and opportunities of the program structure. The map provides a visual representation of the PLOs, allowing faculty to notice gaps or redundancies across the program. This session could be part of the above session or a standalone, or it could occur asynchronously.
Governance 1-3 hours The PLOs and curriculum map should go to the department and then Faculty Council for approval. Before being implemented, they require Senate approval. If seeking an ILO designation for a course as a result of curriculum mapping, follow the ILO Procedures Guide, which details how to apply the foci tools.


The Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) has numerous resources, including a guide to writing and assessing learning outcomes. CELT’s learning outcomes resources are available online.

We also suggest taking a look at CRICKET (Course Renewal in a Kit), designed by faculty and staff at Thompson Rivers University – a “collaborative curriculum renewal space” with information about learning outcomes, learning activities, and assessment.


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Program Review Handbook Copyright © by Alana Hoare; Catharine Dishke Hondzel; and Shannon Wagner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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