Learning Goals



There are a number of purposes to which teachers and students might put concept mapping.

Maps could be used as a way for students to demonstrate their understanding of a concept, as an assessment tool.

From a more process standpoint, maps could be used in the learning process itself. As a way to take notes or otherwise organize content to be learned.

The kind of mapping this presentation focuses on, though, is mapping designed to help students organize their own thinking (individual or group) by helping them in the brainstorming and idea development process.

Here's kind of a sneaky way to think about concept mapping: Kids don't like to write multiple drafts of papers. Concept mapping may represent a way to get kids to do more than one version of a piece of work.


The kind of support you create for students is determined by what your educational goals are. If you want students to be able to articulate a factual concept that you want all students to thoroughly understand in the same way, you may want to provide a different kind of structure than if you wanted students to be individualized and creative.

One type of support you can offer is to give students most or all of the structure of a map. This could take the form of providing a blank map as a template file on the computer or a sheet of paper with a blank map structure on it.

Another decision to make is whether and how many terms you want to use. If part of the aim of the mapping activity is to have students use certain vocabulary, you might provide those terms as concept bubbles, allowing students to arrange them and create links.

You might also want to consider what types of and how many links to provide students with. Again, if you're looking for a common understanding, you might put a lot of the links in place in large group, then have students make individual or small group modifications.


So why would you want to use this?

Concept mapping offers some interesting advantages to word processing. One of these is fluency--students commonly create more "stuff" on a map than they would in print.

Another advantage is that concept mapping takes advantage of students' spatial intelligence, without necessarily requiring that students be artistically gifted.

And of course, concept mapping makes students organize their thinking, either individually or in groups. In large groups, a shared concept map can be a consensus building tool.

If you use concept maps, whether on paper or computer, you'll be rewarded with a very different kind of thinking than you normally see. Due to its fluency and organizing nature, it's a natural for pre-writing activities.

Copyright 1999, Jon Margerum-Leys and The University of Michigan.