Becoming a writer is not a once-and-done proposition. Neither is it a singular process. In the course of a liberal arts education, students encounter a number of different modes and genres of academic writing on campus. At the same time, students need continuous, sustained practice on their way to becoming competent and confident communicators. So how do we balance the epistemological diversity of the campus with the students’ need for consistent, reiterative writing practice? Enter the curricular map.

The curricular mapping exercise creates opportunities for academic departments and units to become more intentional and strategic about the role and place of writing instruction in their programs. It involves four steps:

  1. Clarifying the types of communication skills graduates of the program should possess.
  2. Tracing and strategizing where and how often students get instruction and practice related to these communication skills in the courses offered by the department or program.
  3. Creating and implementing a curricular plan that is more likely to produce the outcomes that the department has set for itself.
  4. Periodically evaluating and revising the curricular map.

What are some additional benefits of doing the curricular mapping exercise?

  • Team building. Faculty learn more about and from each other as they clarify their contributions to the program. They establish a sense of shared purpose.
  • Efficiency. The exercise makes evident where shortages or surpluses of opportunities exist for students to gain experience with a certain skill. It can thus re-direct the faculty’s efforts.
  • Assessment. The exercise creates the conditions for formative assessment of student learning. It creates a feedback loop and mechanism through which to adjust the program until all who are involved feel they are succeeding at meeting their goals.
  • Transfer. The curricular map makes it more likely that students will be able to use what they learn in earlier classes in their subsequent classes.

Academic departments and programs that are interested in clarifying their curricular maps with respect to students’ writing and communication skills can rely on the Writing Director to facilitate the process if needed as well as provide feedback, suggestions, or additional resources.

For more information, or to initiate a Curricular Mapping exercise, please contact  Brigetta Abel (, Director of Writing.