Curriculum as a Map

Curriculum as a Map


As a one time professional navigator, I taught land navigation and expedition skills for 25 years in a college of further education, I am amazed that areas of this discipline are often used as an analogy for aspects of education. Not wishing to be left out my analogy for this article is comparing how one uses a map to plan a route with how one structures a curriculum.

The inspiration behind this came from the following quote:

“The map is open and connectable in all of its dimensions; it is detachable, reversible, susceptible to constant modification.” [1]

Can what we know about how we use a map enable us to lay the foundations on how to structure a curriculum. 

Walking it

Opening out an Ordnance Survey map I am contained by the boundaries of this map.

Using this map I want to plan a course for a race. As this race will be on foot I will focus on using footpaths, bridleways and byways to connect places. Places of historical interest, places of beauty to dwell on and study in depth, places to stop to admire the view, places to pick up provisions, places to take a breather …. How will I decide if the route is linear, circular or a series of smaller circuits? To answer this question I will need to consider the length of time I have for the route to be completed. Will this be a day, a term, a semester, an academic year or longer? Also will I need to revisit places?

Using the original Latin meaning I am planning a curriculum. [2]

Where is the curriculum’s starting point?

Where will the curriculum end?

What shall I include in the curriculum?

Will it be easier to state what will be excluded?

Can the whole area of the map be covered?

Extremely unlikely even if given three years to do so.

What footpaths will be selected to connect places? These being better suited for walking.

What if a path hits a road junction?

On this map this cannot be avoided.

Some paths connect easier than others when at a road junction.

On these paths simply crossing the road and the path is just across the way.

Other paths once the road is crossed you have to walk down the road for some distance sharing this space with fast moving traffic before finding a path that goes in the direction required. Following this route isn’t very safe but on occasions this may be the only option. 

Would using a car be better?

On any map there will be major A roads allowing a more straight forward connection between places. On a typical A road there are a variety of speed limits in place. Mainly 50mph on the open road but can be 40mph when approaching a village and will be 30mph when going through a village.

However, does every driver stick to these speed limits?

In a curriculum, as driving along an A road, there are times when one needs to slow down. There are good reasons for this as a slower pace enables a topic to be dwelt on. However, there are instances where this isn’t the case. Maybe the teacher speeds past a topic they don’t particularly like when more time should be taken or they need to slow down to ensure this part is taken in as it is a base for connecting to other topics. Not adhering to speed limits when driving can have consequences like receiving a speeding ticket. In the curriculum not adjusting the pace could affect student performance and could lead to attendance and retention issues. Just like that speeding ticket all negative outcomes.


There are times when the curriculum is fixed by others. This could be by the government, the organisation you are working for, the awarding body, the unit specification etc… However, even if the curriculum is fixed by others can you make changes surreptitiously? After all it is your subject and you are the expert. Can you be that maverick?

What if a curriculum wasn’t mapped out by others how would you go about planning it? What route selection would you make? Where would you dwell? Which places would you speed through? 


Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari “A Thousand Plateaus” (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987:12) tr. Brian Massumi…/deleuzeguattarirhizome.pdf Accessed: 9th March 2019 [1]

Kieran Egan (2003:10) “What Is Curriculum?”Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies Accessed: 10th March 2019 [2]