A concept map to address the question, “What is a plant?”
WHAT IS A CONCEPT MAP?
A concept map is a graphic arrangement of the key concepts in a body of subject matter with connecting lines labeled to show valid and meaningful relationships between the chosen concepts.
Construction Methods for Concept Maps
Concept Maps can be constructed by using a variety of methods. The method that is employed depends on the purpose of map construction. Concept Maps can be constructed either by hand or with the assistance of software that supports specific tasks or general diagramming. Concept Maps can be constructed by individuals or groups, either with or without facilitation.
A Standard Concept Map Construction Method
The Concept Mapping method defined by Novak & Gowin (1984) involves a series of steps.
1. Define the topic or focus question. Concept Maps that attempt to cover more than one question may become difficult to manage and read.
2. Once the key topic has been defined, the next step is to identify and list the most important or “general” concepts that are associated with that topic.
3. Next, those concepts are ordered top to bottom in the mapping field, going from most general and inclusive to the most specific, an action that fosters the explicit representation of subsumption relationships (i.e., a hierarchical arrangement)
4. Once the key concepts have been identified and ordered, links are added to form a preliminary Concept Map.
5. The concepts in this Concept Map are surrounded by boxes or circles, and the linking phrases reside on the directed arcs between the concepts.
6. Linking phrases are added to describe the relationships among concepts.
7. Once the preliminary Concept Map has been built, a next step is to look for cross-links, which link together concepts that are in different areas or sub-domains on the map. Cross-links help to elaborate how concepts are interrelated.
8) A final aspect of the structure of Concept Maps is the inclusion of specific examples of events or objects. These can help to clarify the meaning of a given concept.
Normally these are not included in ovals or boxes, since they are specific events or objects and do not represent concepts
8. Lastly, the map is reviewed and any necessary changes to structure or content are made.
Numerous educational advantage of Concept Mapping can be identified.
1) A scaffold for understanding
2) A tool for the consolidation of educational experiences
3) A tool for improvement of affective conditions for learning
4) An aid or alternative to traditional writing assignments
5) A tool to teach critical thinking
6) A mediating representation for supporting interaction among learners, and
7) An aid to the process of learning by teaching
8) A tool to identify students’ current understandings, misconceptions
9) Used in collaboration and cooperative learning, and as a formal assessment tool
10) Used to organize and present information, including use as an Advance Organizer
11) Used by instructors for course (lesson plans) or curriculum design
12) Used as a navigational aid in hypermedia.
The main disadvantages of using concept maps are that, first, instructors must learn how to use and teach the technique, and second, students must be taught how to construct them—a process that can take up to a full class period. In-class use of the technique takes up instructional time.