Concept maps are an illustrative representation of the knowledge of students or pupils. Concept maps were first developed in 1972 at Cornell University by Joseph Novak, basing his studies and research on the cognitive theories of David Ausubel. Ausubel stressed in his theories about the importance of previous knowledge in one’s ability to learn new concepts (assimilation theory). This means that, when you get some good education or acquire new knowledge, changes occur in your cognitive structure, refashioning the previous concepts you know, and connecting them with the new ones you have learned.
As illustrative tools for showing knowledge and organising it, you can use concept maps to organise thoughts and ideas on a certain topic, allowing for the relationship among several subtopics or sub-themes to be shown visually.
Making Concept Maps
Concepts maps typically include concepts, which are topics or themes that are placed in boxes or circles. These boxes or circles are all connected by arrows (which are labelled), showing the connection, or relationship, between all the concepts.
Linking phrases – words used to link to other parts of a sentence – are used to express the relationship between concepts. Linking phrases include words like ‘results in’ and ‘contributes to’.
You can add other features to concept maps, such as specific examples of events that will help to further explain the meaning of a concept. Since these are not considered to be concepts, they are not enclosed in boxes or circles.
Types Of Concept Maps
They are mainly 4 types of concept maps. Concept maps can take many forms, but technically there are 4 major types.
These are concept maps that organise information in a layout that looks like a flowchart, but with the additions of concepts of ‘inputs’ and ‘outputs’.
These concept maps organise and present information in a linear structure.
These concept maps display information in a descending order of importance: the most important concept is placed at the top, followed by a concept of less importance, and so on. The placement of these concepts is determined by certain distinguishing factors.
These concept maps put the main theme in the centre of the map, while the sub-themes radiate outwardly from that central theme, surrounding the concept in the centre.
Why Use Concept Maps
Concept maps are a great way to organise your thoughts and display them using boxes and circles, physically showing the relationships among concepts and ideas. Displaying information using concept maps makes it easier to understand.
Visualising relationships using concept maps and linking these concepts may lead to the discovery of novel problem-solving techniques. You can use concept maps as a meaningful learning tool, a knowledge organisation tool, and as an assessment tool.
Using Concept Maps As An Assessment Tool
Concept maps are a good tool for tutors to use in assessing students because:
1. Concept maps can be used to bring out and clearly show the knowledge that the students have on a certain topic, both correct and wrong, in a particular area of knowledge.
2. Concept maps are objective assessment tools that the tutor can use to monitor the students’ progress, to evaluate your own instructional methods as a tutor, and also to revise your method of delivery to your students if necessary.
3. Concept maps are highly effective in pointing out the accurate and inaccurate bits of knowledge and ideas that students may have.
4. Concept maps used as an assessment tool ably presents information about the student’s performance, as well as the performance of the tutor.
As assessment tools, concept maps can be seen as a group of instructional materials that measure the structure and quality of the students’ knowledge.
How You Can Use Concept Mapping To Assess Your Students
As a tutor, concept maps can be useful for you if you are looking for an effective assessment tool to assess your students’ knowledge and performance.
1. At the start of your tutoring classes, ask your students to make a concept map of a certain subject. This allows you to see what the students know, and how much of it is valid knowledge or invalid. This information will then help you to organise your instructions in a way that will better help the students to learn.
2. As your tutoring sessions go on, periodically assign them the same concept map to create. Seeing how their concept maps grow, become more precise in vocabulary and more complex in structure, allows both you and your students to see how far you have come, as how much has been learned, and how well it was taught.
3. When using concept maps, give them an example by making one yourself, then asking them to create theirs. Let your students create maps of their own, based on your example: they shouldn’t have to present the exact same map that you created.
4. You can create a concept map, they remove certain concepts from it and let the students study it and fill in the empty boxes or circles (a modified ‘fill in the blank’ exercise).
5. You can also use concept maps as an introduction to a topic. Ask the students to make a concept map, based on what they already know about the topic. Then, as you proceed with the lesson, they can add to the map or remove from it.
6. Concept maps are flexible, so you can use them for individual students, or for an activity for the entire class.
Note that revision is an important aspect of using concept maps. The students should be allowed to change concepts as their knowledge increases, or as previous knowledge changes.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Concept Maps For Assessment
Concept maps are beneficial in that they are objective, practical, and an engaging class activity. They are also good for self-assessment and are a creative instructional tool, as well as very flexible. However, concept maps may be difficult to grasp by students who are used to learning by rote. Also, concept maps are not entirely suitable for evaluation using grades.