Author Box
Articles Categories
All Categories
Articles Resources

What Is a Concept Map? Teaching Strategies Based on Visual Mapping Techniques and Use of Cmap Tools

April 13, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 217

The use of different learning styles within the classroom has long been a core teaching strategy, and with the exam season upon us again, the need to find effective methods which allow learners to condense key information into memorable chunks becomes even more pressing. Keywords are a useful starting point, but adding structure to these is important if disparate pieces of information are to be linked into a coherent story. This is where visual mapping can play a key role.

Although most people viewing a mind map or concept map will initially consider the words themselves to have the most importance, positioning of these words within the diagrams also holds key information. In mind maps, the overarching idea of the diagram will be found at the centre, with topics of reducing levels of importance radiating out from this until the detail resides at the edges. Related wedges may be shown by the use of different colours, and pictures and other aide memoire are also recommended to bring the creative mind into play. Links, in the form of simple lines, usually show a number of branching pathways radiating out from the centre, giving a spider web structure to the final map.

The concept map, by contrast, has a top down hierarchical structure. A concept map requires both a context and a focus question, from which it should not deviate. It covers a domain of knowledge, and its creator, Joseph Novak envisaged that the development of a concept map would be undertaken by an expert in the field who would sift and sort the relevant keywords, giving them a rank value based on generality and inclusivity. Following this the words would be layered and linked, enhancing simple straight line linkages with additional written indications of relationships. It is interesting that increasingly mind maps also have writing along the linking lines (in addition to the keyword) - it seems that a simple line does not always convey enough information about relationships when the user is not simply using the diagram as a revision aid. As with mind mapping software, it is possible to use cmap tools to develop these concept maps for yourself. If you lack the confidence to start at the expert level, I cover here one more mapping type which may be of use.

The association map, in its simplest form, is just two keywords with a defined link. In terms of looks the diagrams are similar to a non-linear mind map, but structurally they have the more formal requirements of the concept map. The key point from a learning view, is that the relationship between the two keywords must always be clearly defined. A keyword may have many links to other keywords, but each pairing must have this well-defined link association. I have found the decisions one must make about these relationships have been some of the most useful in helping a student to overcome a misunderstanding, and in designing learning packages so that learners move more easily through a topic. Linking the unknown to the known has been a useful teaching strategy since time immemorial, and the association map is a particularly powerful way of tapping into this for some students.

Internal cross links between lower level keywords are less common in mind maps and concept maps than they are in association maps, with the branching tree structure tending to take precedence. With concept and mind maps, the relationship of each word to the overarching theme remains paramount. In association maps, however, the link becomes the key, and, as stated, the process of deciding which type of link joins keywords together is a valuable part of ascertaining correct understanding. If you can't link two keywords effectively, you haven't understood how they are related to one another!

This pairing and linking process allows a jigsaw like approach to the development of the knowledge map, and enables a student always to be working from a point of understanding. Most interestingly, when used to develop a map for a new topic where one is not an expert, it is possible to identify the high level terms which will take precendence at the top of a concept map once an association map has been developed. This is because they are the ones with the most linkages. Development of an association map therefore gives a useful mechanism for allowing students to take on the expert role and develop their own concept maps, even when they are not fully confident in a subject. Drawing any of the three types of maps involves much more active learning than just using ready produced ones in my experience so this is a definite bonus.

In summary, all mapping techniques provide a powerful method for organising key ideas within a topic or sub-topic. Mind mapping allows colourful creativity, concept mapping provides the confidence of professional correctness, and association mapping always lets you get started somewhere, but I have a sneaky suspicion, that the real power of visual mapping is the process your brain goes through when you develop those non-verbal links for yourself, so get a pencil and get started!

Dr Sylvia Mawby enjoys teaching Science to 11-16 year olds in a small rural Secondary School in the UK. She became interested in the value of visual mapping to aid understanding when she worked for a small software engineering company which used an industry standard visual mapping protocol (Unified Modelling Language) to model business processes. Since returning to teaching she has used these modelling techniques effectively both to assist with personal course development and to support learning by providing maps for students. Further information about the techniques discussed here can be found at

Source: EzineArticles
Was this Helpful ?

Rate this Article

Article Tags:

Concept Map


Map Concept


Mind Map


Teaching Strategies


What Are Concept Maps


Map Mapping



For gaining entrance in coveted fields in a reputed University, the entrance examinations are the gateway. The purpose of these entrance examinations is to test the potential of a candidate and how

By: Sarkariexam l Reference & Education > Science l December 23, 2012 lViews: 520

Competition is increasing at an alarming level in every sphere. The students have to focus completely on their studies to ensure that they get admission in the line of their choice. What more, the

By: Sarkariexam l Reference & Education > Continuing Education l December 14, 2012 lViews: 1443

'How hard is a PhD'? Many PhD holders have been asked this question millions of times, but there is never any definite answer. We look at those who walk around proudly with a 'Doctor' title with

By: onlineedublog l Reference & Education > Continuing Education l November 11, 2012 lViews: 284

In this fast paced world which is sadly recession struck, it is indeed a good idea to work while acquiring further education. A master’s degree is obviously better than a bachelor’s in almost

By: onlineedublog l Reference & Education > Online Education l November 04, 2012 lViews: 262

An Online Degree Program in Finance is gaining popularity as it helps students to develop a lucrative career. It helps in a competitive business world. This has resulted in more number of students

By: Matthew l Reference & Education > Online Education l October 31, 2012 lViews: 288

Supporting justice is one of the reasons many people get into a career in the legal field. All-inclusive Online Associate’s Degree in Legal Studies assists many in the beginning stage of employment

By: Richard l Reference & Education > Online Education l October 26, 2012 lViews: 222

Bureaucracy, hierarchical bullying, leaders and lowly followers, and any other form of governing at the expense and exploitation of the governed... these are hurtful and criminal systems for the

By: Diana Hunter McGuertyl Reference & Education > Teachingl July 11, 2012 lViews: 221

Have you ever considered how much we work to modify our history books, weaving in current era morality to fit what we hope the next generation will become? We seem to be changing our history books

By: Lance Winslowl Reference & Education > Teachingl July 08, 2012 lViews: 198

Some teachers, whether they're new or not make mistakes. To avoid doing that would be very helpful if we had some sort of covenant. Alas this isn't possible in all countries.

By: Priya J Ramcharanl Reference & Education > Teachingl July 01, 2012 lViews: 225

Youth leadership classes are impossible to run without adequate staffing, but your budget may not allow for enough employees to implement quality teen leadership activities. Read this article to find

By: Dan Meyersonl Reference & Education > Teachingl June 30, 2012 lViews: 182

What ancient and highly effective teaching tool has been totally neglected in contemporary educational practice? What can be used to overcome the extremely common problems of students being unengaged

By: Thomas E Swansonl Reference & Education > Teachingl June 29, 2012 lViews: 155

Doing an examination is always a stressful situation for all concerned, teachers and students alike. To create less stress on students, the teacher must provide an examination environment that runs

By: Richard D Boycel Reference & Education > Teachingl June 29, 2012 lViews: 214

Discuss this Article

comments powered by Disqus