Concept maps show visual representations of connections between a major concept and information related to that major concept. Through assigning students to create a concept map representing knowledge about a particular concept, instructors can assess students’ prior knowledge before beginning a unit. Concept maps can also be created by students and used as formative assessments during learning activities. Concept maps provide instructors with immediate visual data that shows students’ misconceptions and/or level of understanding.
How to Use Concept Mapping
The following are some of the ways this teaching approach is used to engage students:
- Assess prior knowledge—students create a visual representation of what they know
- Show how experts organize knowledge—build a map that tells students how you think
- Summarize reading—ideas in an article, main points of a chapter, or the theme of a novel
- Plan a task—visualize a project or lab assignment to get a handle on what is involved
- Generate class discussion based on concept mapping
- Conduct an assessment—following a unit or course, students map what they have learned
Impact on Learning
According to Bransford (1999), factual information that is gained in the context of meaningful learning is retained longer and used more successfully to solve problems.
Additionally, using concept mapping in instruction can impact student learning through:
- Promoting students’ ability to draw inferences from what they observe.
- Improving students’ ability to synthesize and integrate concepts and ideas.
- Increasing students’ ability to learn subject area information.
Concept maps can be used to assess students’ learning as a performance-based test where students demonstrate what they have learned by showing basic concepts and how those concepts are interrelated within the given conceptual framework.
In assessing concept maps created by students, rubrics can help provide consistent guidelines and evaluation. A sample rubric from the University of Wisconsin used to assess concept maps can be found at https://www2.uwstout.edu/content/profdev/rubrics/inspirationrubric.html.
Concept Mapping and Canvas
In Canvas, one way to use concepts maps would be for students to integrate concepts maps into discussion. Instructors can have students read, research or explore a concept, then create a concept map in groups or individually and post them in the discussion. Following their initial posts, instructors could ask students to respond to the differences in the concept maps shared by others. In Canvas you can setup a Discussion so that students can not see other posts until they have made an initial posts. You might choose to use this setting so that students won’t just copy each other’s maps.
You can learn more about how to set up Discussions in Canvas from the Canvas Community at: https://community.canvaslms.com/docs/DOC-3188.
You can learn more about how to set up Discussions in Canvas from the Penn State Canvas Learning Center at: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1741795/pages/4c-create-and-manage-discussions?module_item_id=20342417.
Padlet: An online collaborative tool that only allows 160 characters in each posting of information. It can be used to allow a group to work on an electronic bulletin board or wall, posting the equivalent of electronic “Post-it” notes to list concepts, then move them into place on a concept map. This can be done asynchronously for online coursework or synchronously in a face-to-face class using a projector so that students can work collaboratively and discuss what concepts should be connected and why.
Things to Consider
For successful implementation of concept mapping, you should consider the following strategies:
- Be sure students are prepared with prior knowledge; otherwise, they will not be able to contribute to the map and may not understand the linkages between concepts.
- Provide a sample concept map enabling students to begin gathering their own ideas.
- If software is used to create the map, provide a tutorial.
- Formulate a focus question that clearly specifies what is to be mapped.
- Have students create a short list of key terms before beginning. This can be done through brainstorming.
- Work with students to create a partially constructed map as a starting point.
- Revise maps over time, allowing students to see how their understanding changes, and how new connections are drawn based on new information.
Bransford, John, Ann L. Brown, and Rodney R. Cocking. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington D.C.: National Academy Press, 1999.
Clark, Chris. “Best Tools and Practices for Concept Mapping.” Kaneb Center, University of Notre Dame. Last modified May 10, 2011. http://ltlatnd.wordpress.com /2011/05/10/best-tools-and-practices-for-concept-mapping/.
Muirhead, Brent. “Creating Concept Maps: Integrating Constructivism Principles into Online Classes.” Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning 3 no. 1 (2006), http://www.itdl.org/Journal/jan_06/article02.htm.
Nilson, Linda B. “Using Visuals To Teach Chapter 26.” In Teaching at Its Best: A Research-Based Resource for College Instructors 2010. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010.http://www.pharmacy.cmu.ac.th/unit/unit_files/files_download/2014-05-02Teaching-at-its-best.pdf.
Novak, Joseph D. and Alberto J. Cañas. “The Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How to Construct and Use Them.” Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (2008). http://cmap.ihmc.us/Publications/ResearchPapers/TheoryUnderlyingConceptMaps.pdf.
“Rubric for Graphic Organizers—Inspiration Diagrams/Concept Maps.” University of Wisconsin-Stout. Last modified December 13, 2011. https://www2.uwstout.edu/content/profdev/rubrics/inspirationrubric.html.