Define & Map

The educational goals process begins by first defining the unit's educational goals and mapping them across programs. The instructions below provide an overview of these processes.

1. Define

Effective educational goals succinctly describe what students leaving your program will know and be able to do as a result of their program of study. They also communicate to students what is distinctive about your program. Well-written educational goals are jargon-free, observable, and specific enough to be assessable through direct and/or indirect methods. We recommend ten educational goals or less for most programs.

Examples of educational goals

At the end of their program, students will be able to:

  • Read closely in a variety of forms, styles, structures, and modes, and articulate the value of close reading in the study of literature, creative writing, or rhetoric. (English, SJSU)
  • Develop a software system to solve a real-world problem. (Computer Science, UBC)
  • Acquire and collate the information and data relevant to a given biological question and objectively interpret them to draw an informed conclusion. (Biology, University of Ottawa)
  • Draw on diverse sociological theories, methods, and content knowledge to:
    •     critically situate individual experience within broader social contexts and relationships;
    •     question assumptions about social phenomena;
    •     interrogate forms of power, inequality, and social change;
    •     assess social practices, programs, and policies. (Sociology, University of Alberta)

For examples of educational goals from similar programs, see this compendium.

How do we write effective educational goals?

There are several ways to write effective educational goals:

  • Reflecting on and distilling the outstanding work students do in their upper division or 400-level courses. These may be reflected in course-level educational goals that can be used to extrapolate program-level educational goals.
  • Taking stock of significant changes in your area of study and updating your EGs to reflect those changes.
  • Reviewing curriculum recommendations or guidelines produced by disciplinary organizations as these can provide expectations for graduates in a discipline and recommendations for areas of core concepts that should be addressed in a curriculum.

Some best practices for writing educational goals:

  • Engage faculty in your unit when writing or revising educational goals. This will ensure they reflect your unit’s priorities broadly and help generate faculty support. 
  • Iterate your EGs over time based on changes in your field and feedback from faculty, students and other stakeholders.
  • Written in simple language that non-specialists can understand.

The verbs used in effective program-level EGs need to be observable and represent higher-order thinking (e.g. Design, Evaluate, Analyse, Create).

Many find it helpful to consult taxonomies of verbs that have been developed for education, such as Bloom’s taxonomy or Fink’s taxonomy of significant learning.

For help writing educational goals, contact

2. Curriculum Mapping

One fundamental step that can help your unit assess its educational goals is the creation of a curriculum map for each program.

Curriculum mapping is the process of identifying which EGs are covered in which courses. A completed curriculum map typically takes the form of a grid (a table or spreadsheet) that allows you to see:

  • where your educational goals are addressed in the curriculum,
  • the sequence in which they are taught,
  • and whether there are any key gaps and helpful overlaps. 

 Curriculum maps can capture information of varying complexity, such as:

  • The level of mastery of the educational goals that students are expected to attain in the course. An educational goal may be taught and assessed at an introductory, intermediate/developing, or advanced/proficient level.
  • Whether a given educational goal is both taught and assessed in a given course.
  • The methods used to teach the educational goals. This may be helpful if your discipline has signature teaching practices, such as inquiry learning, service learning, significant project-based work, etc.
  • The course-based assessments through which students demonstrate their attainment of the educational goals, which will be helpful when you are designing your assessment plan.

Mapping may include:

  • Level of attainment of educational goal in a course (Introduce, Develop, Proficient)
  • Instructional strategies
  • And particular assessments that are aligned with an educational goal.

Once completed, a curriculum map can also help you in the educational goal assessment process by pointing you to key courses for assessing student achievement of educational goals.

At the start of your External Review cycle, you should review your curriculum map to ensure it is still up to date and reflects any changes you have made to your program since your last External Review.

A curriculum map is intended to be a living document that changes in accordance with any changes to your program or its educational goals.