Transitioning to the DNP: Ensuring Integrity of the Curriculum Through Curriculum Mapping

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A major responsibility of nursing faculty is to ensure congruence between professional standards, program learning outcomes, and curriculum. These expectations are clearly delineated by specialty accrediting agencies such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education,1 Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing,2 and Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation.3 To meet these expectations, curriculum committees are challenged to establish systematic curriculum review procedures that provide valid and reliable evidence of curriculum integrity and alignment.
A powerful tool used to demonstrate the overall coherence of a curriculum is curriculum mapping.4 Curriculum mapping is a graphic display of the intersections between curricular content, structure, and assessments. The mapping process can be applied to the initial stages of curriculum construction or to the analysis of established curricula. Used for decades in primary and secondary school systems and more recently in higher education including nursing programs, curriculum mapping affords faculty a transparent venue to identify curricular alignment, misalignments, gaps, and redundancies.5-8
Curriculum mapping typically involves the construction of a 2-dimensional matrix with intersecting cells. The content of the matrix varies depending on the depth and breadth of the mapping approach.9 Breadth of a curriculum map is typically reflected in the horizontal and vertical axes of the matrix and can vary from the individual course to the program or institution levels. One axis of the matrix, for example, might list standards or learning objectives, whereas the other lists units, courses, or programs. Depth of the curriculum is typically reflected within the cells of the matrix. Depth can vary from the faculty's decision about where content is introduced and reinforced to where learning is assessed and mastered.
Course-level curriculum maps are constructed most often by the individual faculty responsible for developing the course objectives, content, and assessments. Unless curriculum maps are validated for accuracy at the course level, there is a risk of misrepresentation of the curriculum at the program and institution levels. Although there are many resources available that describe the mapping process, there are no exemplars in the literature that describe a process for reviewing maps to establish their accuracy. The purpose of this article is to describe an approach used by 1 nursing program to validate curriculum alignment in a BSN to doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program.
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