Curriculum Review

Conducting a Departmental Self-Study

As part of the curriculum review process, departments conduct a self-study, write a report, and receive feedback from external reviewers during a 2-day site visit. The self-study is “a broad, reflective, critical and forward-looking analysis of the program including consultation with faculty, staff and students of the program being reviewed, and data on recognized university indicators from IPB.” (IQAP 4.2.2)

Eight-year Curriculum Review Timeline

Ways in which we support departments during the self-study

  • providing feedback on retreat plans (selection of activities, timing, questions)
  • demonstrating retreat activities during the Curriculum Review Workshop
  • facilitating all or part of a retreat (optimally booked 2-3 months in advance of a scheduled retreat)
  • feedback on plans for curriculum mapping
  • templates for curriculum mapping.

Curriculum Retreats

Sample Curriculum Retreat Agendas


Collecting Curriculum Data

Taking a scholarly approach to curriculum review

Think of curriculum review as an opportunity to collect data about the quality and outcomes of the curriculum and analyze it using the same research methods you may already use in your own research.  Quantitative analysis of survey data or qualitative analysis of focus group and interview data provides material that you may include in your self-study document;  or use as the starting point for discussion about curriculum renewal at a faculty retreat.

Data worth collecting: 

  • survey and focus group data about the strengths and weaknesses of the program (e.g., current students and alumni, employers, faculty, etc.)
  • survey data about how alumni use what they learned in their careers
  • student grades, sample work, and evidence of learning over time
  • faculty-generated curriculum plans and vision
  • curriculum maps that link learning outcomes with assessments and teaching methods
  • data about the employment of graduates, admission to graduate school etc.

  • Detailed information on data sources

Ethical data collection

  • Follow the same principles for survey and focus group research as you would in an academic research project: ensure that responses are anonymous and confidential, and that participation is voluntary.
  • Data collected for program review generally does not require Tri-council ethics approval, but if you plan to present the data at a conference or publish it in some form later on, then ethics approval is required.

Resources and CTL Support

The curriculum specialists and educational researcher at the CTL can provide:

Mapping the Curriculum


Prideaux's (2003) description of three levels for examining curriculum (the planned, the delivered, and the experienced) is helpful for thinking about what kind of questions get asked about curricula. With a focus on the delivered curriculum, faculty members engage in curriculum mapping to help see, over the course of a program, what gets taught, when it gets taught and how it gets assessed. The mapping described occupies Prideaux's "delivered curriculum" level with faculty members' experiences in their individual classrooms a key component of analysis. We have found that in departments where all active instructors are asked to contribute to mapping, the process results in richer, more accurate data about the program. When complete, curriculum maps provide a visual representation of the links between courses, assessments, and student progression. Informed, in part, by departmental questions about student learning, data can be collected to help answer questions about:

  1. progression of student learning through a program
  2. alignment between assessment methods and learning outcomes
  3. alignment between instructional methods and learning outcomes
  4. strengths and weaknesses in the student achievement of learning outcomes
  5. how students in the program meet the degree-level expectations (WDOs or GDLES).

Results of mapping data are meant to be triangulated with other data to help inform faculty-driven decisions about the curriculum. One of the most rewarding parts of the curriculum mapping process is when faculty members come together to analyze the results and engage in dialogue regarding the strengths of the program.

Ways that we have supported departments in the curriculum mapping process

  • consultations prior to curriculum mapping session
  • provide examples of curriculum maps
  • facilitate workshops focused on data collection
  • facilitate workshops focused on interpreting curriculum maps.

Example Maps and Tables

Curriculum Maps for Undergraduate Self-Study

Progression of Learning and Assessments

For the undergraduate self-study, departments produce a Progression of Learning curriculum map for each module. They also should identify how courses assess learning.  The example Progression of Learning map for Honors Specialization in Agricultural Science rolls both of these components into one, with the coloured cells indicating the progression of learning (introduce, reinforce, or proficiency), and the final column indicating the types of assessment (legend at bottom).  An additional layer of headings on the map (the top two rows) indicate how the program learning outcomes align with Western Degree Outcomes (WDOs). Many programs find that alignment between the WDOs and Program Level Outcomes are more nuanced and instead provide an additional table that shows the relationship between program level outcomes and WDOs.

Example Progression of Learning Map and Assessments for Honors Specialization in Agricultural Science

Example Progression of Learning Map and Assessments for Major in Agricultural Science

Modules within the same department are often similar but will have some marked differences. For example, the Major in Agricultural Science has different learning outcomes, an absent learning outcome, and some differences in the progression of learning as compared to the Honors Specialization.

Curriculum Tables for Graduate Program Self-Study

Self-Study Table

The self-study table consists of four columns. The first two columns depict the alignment between program level learning outcomes for each module and the Ontario Graduate Degree Level Expectations. The last two columns provide a narrative of how the program supports the achievement of the program learning outcomes and how the outcomes are evaluated.

Requirements Tracking

The requirements tracking document summarizes the role of each course (required and elective), program milestones, and the thesis in achieving the program learning outcomes and graduate degree level expectations.

Example Requirements Tracking for Masters of Digital Media

Additional examples to support continuous curriculum improvement

Many programs to choose to collect and analyze additional data in order to inform conversations about current program design and future possibilities for their curriculum.  Examples, available for viewing in the tabs of the Google Sheet below include:

Taught and Assessed Map:  This map is used as a snapshot of how achievement of each learning outcome is supported (taught) and evaluated (assessed) for each course.  The four possible states are: Not Taught and Not Assessed, Taught and Not Assessed, Not Taught and Assessed, and Taught and Assessed.

Summary of Instructional/ Assessments Methods: These makes indicate how many courses make use of particular instructional or assessment methods.  These graphs inform conversations about alignment between skills and values of the program and how students are supported and assessed.

Instructional Methods/ Assessment Methods by Year: This chart, which can alternatively be divided by electives and required courses, by course level, or by any other course grouping, is typically used to inform conversations about how learning is scaffolded throughout a program. For example, are students who are expected to write a thesis getting significant writing practice in their first three years of an undergraduate degree?

Instructional/ Assessment Methods by Outcome: Graphs of instructional or assessment methods by outcome can be used by departments who are interested in determining the degree of alignment between the way that learning is supported or students are evaluated on each outcome.




If you would like to discuss this topic further, please contact a member of the CTL curriculum team.



Prideaux, D. (2003). ABC of learning and teaching in medicine: Curriculum design. British Medical Journal, 326(7383), 268–270. Retrieved from