In most areas of life, it is extremely useful if we keep track of what we are doing, how we are doing it and where we are going with it. This is particularly important in education, where there are often multiple, complex demands on schools.
A very simple tool for evaluating what happens in schools is a 2 x 2 grid, or “map”. Usually we hear or read about mapping curricula, but all aspects of a school’s operations can be mapped. The process of mapping invites collaborative discussion about key issues and the product allows us to see, at a glance, where we are at.
For example, many schools have, as part of their vision and/or mission, something along the lines of students being knowledgeable, creative and/or critical thinkers, independent learners, global citizens and so on. If a school maps all its practices, both in the classroom and outside the classroom, against its values, it is readily apparent which practices need to be continued and strengthened, and which need to be dropped.
At a previous secondary school, we developed a teacher view of what the ideal student would look like. Later, when we became an IB World school, we mapped this against the IB Learner Profile. We discovered that our original perspective demanded too little of ourselves and our students.
Likewise, mapping a student-centred pedagogical framework against any district or national curriculum allows teachers to teach students in a collaborative, concept-based, inquiry-style manner, whilst more than satisfying local requirements – insightful mapping frees teachers from “teaching to the test”.
Unit planning for higher order/concept-based thinking (or any other facet of teaching and learning that can be tracked) is facilitated by mapping content against thinking skills/questions. From this, learning engagements that encourage students to go beyond curriculum expectations become almost self-evident.
Finally, mapping does not have to be confined to two dimensions. Dr. Roger Taylor has participants in his programs map in three dimensions, ensuring a more cohesive approach to teaching and learning.