Dr. Gavan Watson and I developed a curriculum mapping process (links to his website) using Google Sheets. This process allows us to facilitate the collaborative creation of Progression of Learning and Taught and Assessed maps (the former a requirement for the International Quality Assurance Process in Ontario). To build on our initial work, I developed a suite of options for collecting and displaying assessment and instructional method data. Like our initial mapping method, the method requires some backend work to set up and customize for each interested department, but once it’s set up, the data is available for analysis as soon as its entered.
Faculty members input all of their data into 1 or a few sheets, depending on the depth of analysis they are looking for. For example, in the case below, faculty members have finished entering the progression of learning by outcome for the courses they teach, and have moved on to recording the types of assessments they use. The data as entered isn’t terribly interesting or easy to interpret, but using the formulas I wrote, the data can be visualized. As you can see in the image below, this summary graph automatically updates as data is entered. The resulting graph shows how many courses use each type of assessment.
This real-time data visualization means that we can have a conversation about the data right after it is entered.
Some programs are interested in more nuanced data to answer specific questions. For example, how are we assessing students on a given learning outcome, such as communication? In the case below, you can see that students are assessed on their communication on a wide variety of ways, with no major alarm bells (such as, for example, a large portion of communication skills assessed by multiple choice questions).
Departments may also be interested in how they support students through their programs. Do they get practice in first and second year with the most important skills expected in 4th year and upon graduation? The graph below can be used to follow the portion of types of assessments throughout the program. In the case below, for example, students are expected to have excellent oral presentation skills, and although they aren’t assessed on presentation skills in first year, they do get some experience with presentations in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year.
Just like the summary of assessment methods, these graphs can be prepared (without data) ahead of time, so that participants in a curriculum mapping retreat can discuss their program data immediately after entering it.
Having used this process in only 2 programs thus far, we only have my own reflections and anecdotal feedback on its impact and utility. Thus far, curriculum committees have responded positively to the process and we have had no complaints from faculty member participants (a plus when it is, after all, data entry). In the future we will be collecting feedback on the process.
Although Google Sheets may not be seen as a first choice for curriculum mapping software, I have reflected on some of the benefits:
- familiarity: it is easy to collaborate with faculty members and staff on entering the necessary information to get started (courses, learning outcomes) because people are familiar with shared documents and spreadsheets. Likewise, faculty members have had very few problems filling in the data.
- customization: because I wrote the formulas and set up the graphs, the maps and graphs are highly customizable (although this takes time to do)
- cost effective: Google Sheets is free, so the costs are only the initial cost in writing the formulae and customizing before each mapping session.