Effective teaching is a result of well-planned out ideas and content that is organized in its delivery. Concept maps or mind maps are valuable tools to provide an excellent way to visualise ideas for delivering a lesson, leading to content delivery that achieves needed results, each time. Two notable results that can be obtained with the use of concept maps are: students’ creativity is boosted, and students are more motivated to learn.
What are Concept Maps?
Concept Maps are graphic representations consisting of a collection of concepts which are linked together semantically. They allow for idea association and organisation minus the downsides of only written and oral methods of teaching like linearization and its inherent constraints. With concept maps, conceptual knowledge can easily be organised visually and represented. A lot more creativity can be developed in teaching subjects because concept maps permit fast and timely generation and association of ideas.
Information, and the most relevant relationship between concepts and ideas can be graphically organised and presented with concept maps. Therefore, students are able to see the connection between ideas, and get engaged in practicing how to group and organise information. Concept maps can be created electronically, on paper or using an interactive White Board (IWB).
Important Characteristics of Concept Maps
A concept map or a mind map stimulates the brain with the use of colour, images, lines, words, logic and sounds. There are four important characteristics of concept maps:
- A central image is used to represent the subject
- All of the branches are linked, and form a nodal structure
- The topical themes are shown as main branches of the central image
- Sub-topics or minor themes are connected to the major theme of the subject
Concept Maps: Chains, Spokes or Network
With concept maps, there can be variations in the complexity, depth and structure. Concept maps using chains for illustration indicate a surface knowledge or rote learning of a subject. The chain begins from the major theme of the topic, stretching out horizontally or vertically to show other connected branches to provide a better explanation of the theme.
Knowledge about multiple but unrelated concepts can be shown with radially organized concepts in spokes. When concepts are organised in networks using multiple links between nodes, a more involved understanding of how such concepts are interrelated is created.
Network concept maps are unique, characterised by multiple concepts, links and crosslinks and effectively provide conceptual understanding of the different ideas which they present.
Making Thinking Visible through Concept Maps
Concept maps are great tools that supply diagnostic pre-assessments to instructors before starting a new unit or starting formative assessments in the process of learning activities. Concept maps provide visual representations, linking or connecting the already existing knowledge students have acquired with new major concepts.
With concept maps, instructors can be equipped with immediate visual data on the level of understanding that students have and other misconceptions formed about the topic.
There are certain important areas where the use of concept maps can develop the abilities of students:
- Learning new concepts and theories in the area of learning
- Integrating and synthesizing new information and fresh ideas
- Making reasonable inferences from simple to complex observations
Unique Variations in Concept Mapping Techniques
- Collaborative Concept Mapping
Introducing concept mapping newly can be quite a frustrating experience, especially for a class filled mostly with novices. Collaborative concept mapping can help alleviate some of the tension when students work together on a concept map. Students get to argue and debate with each other, serving as a form of motivation to the individuals in a group.
- Fill-in Concept Mapping
A concept map is constructed, with all of the concept labels removed (minus the links). Students are then asked to replace the labels and appropriately fill in the missing parts of the concept map in a way that makes the most sense structurally. Fill-in map concept mapping is an excellent way to introduce a new topic, and find out the pre-existing knowledge of students at the start of each new lesson.
- Guided Choice Concept Mapping
A list of about 20 concept labels and can be presented for students to make selections to construct their maps. After a period of time, changes are made to the concepts which appear or disappear on the list. This method helps to restructure the knowledge frameworks for all the students.
- Select and Fill-in Concept Mapping
A concept map is created with missing concepts from the nodes. The deleted concepts are then placed in a numbered list on the concept map for students to choose from. The key with select and fill-in concept mapping is to select nodes with closer levels of hierarchy with antecedent links.
Concept maps are highly useful tools for delivering educational content to students at all levels. They are highly versatile, employing the most basic, relatable skills of educational science and technology to achieve effective learning results.