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Concept Mapping Tools and Tips

What is concept mapping?

Concept mapping are graphical tools used to organize and represent knowledge. The concepts are usually represented in some type of shape such as squares and circles. The relationships to other concepts on the map are shown by lines connecting them. Words written on the line, referred to as linking words or linking phrases, specify the relationship between the two concepts.

Concept Map image
Source: cmap.ihmc.us

Concept maps can also be represented in a hierarchal format, the most inclusive, most general concepts at the top of the map and the more specific, less general concepts are at the bottom.

Concept Map Hierarchal Display
Source: cmap.ihmc.us

Where did concept maps come from?

“Concept maps were developed in 1972 in the course of Novak’s research program at Cornell where he wanted to follow and understand changes in children’s knowledge of science (Novak & Musonda, 1991). During this time researchers interviewed many children, and they found it difficult to identify specific changes in the children’s understanding of science concepts by examination of interview transcripts. This program was based on the learning psychology of David Ausubel (1963; 1968; Ausubel et al., 1978). The fundamental idea in Ausubel’s cognitive psychology is that learning takes place by the assimilation of new concepts and propositions into existing concept and propositional frameworks held by the learner. This knowledge structure as held by a learner is also referred to as the individual’s cognitive structure. Out of the necessity to find a better way to represent children’s conceptual understanding emerged the idea of representing children’s knowledge in the form of a concept map. This was the birth of a new tool not only for use in research, but also for many other uses.”

Use of Concept Maps

Concept maps are used to stimulate the generalization of ideas and to promote creativity, it also aids in brainstorming. These maps are used in businesses and educational institutions. Concept mapping is used when taking notes and summarizing key concepts, their relationships and hierarchy from documents and source materials. It is also used when being introduced to new information, such as mapping knowledge and resources. They are also used to train new employees at work, spread information effectible and in a clear manner and assess a learners understanding.

Benefits of Concept Mapping in Education

Concept mapping serves several purposes for learners:
• Helping students brainstorm and generate new ideas
• Encouraging students to discover new concepts and the propositions that connect them
• Allowing students to more clearly communicate ideas, thoughts and information
• Helping students integrate new concepts with older concepts
• Enabling students to gain enhanced knowledge of any topic and evaluate the information

When created correctly and thoroughly, concept mapping is a powerful way for students to reach high levels of cognitive performance. A concept map is not just a learning tool, but an evaluation tool for educators measuring the growth of and assessing student learning. As students create concept maps, they reiterate ideas using their own words and help identify incorrect ideas and concepts; educators are able to see what students understand and do not understand.