As a graduate student, I am always looking for ways to organize my thoughts for research papers and projects. I always think back to the days I was a high school student and had to organize new concepts in science class. Concept maps were always a good option for me; I had a resource other than my notes and textbook to refer to when studying for a test. My teachers also utilized concept maps to assess learning.
What are Concept Maps?
According to Carnegie Mellon, concept maps are a representation of students’ knowledge through the use of a specialized map that can help students organize their thoughts and represent knowledge. The concepts are words in circles or boxes and a line represents the relationship between concepts. Concept maps can also be incorporated into the human sexuality classroom; students could create a concept map to discuss the various methods of birth control, how they are used, what the types are, how they are aquired, etc. as a way to organize their thinking about contraception.
Steps in Creating a Concept Map
The Merrill-Cazier Library offers steps on how to create a concept map: For the purpose of this post, I will relate the example to human sexuality education.
Step 1: Identify the general/broad topic that you are interested in.
Example: Birth control methods
Step 2: Brainstorm on the general topic and list all the concepts and themes that are related to the topic on a large piece of paper. Keep the concepts as concise as possible.
Example: Oral contraceptives, barrier methods, condoms, surgical, male, female, hormonal, injectable, trans-dermal, emergency, sub dermal, coitus interrupts, coitus reservatus, coitus obstructus, and natural family planning
Step 3: Using unlined paper, write the main theme in the center of the page.
Example: Birth Control Methods
Step 4: Take the other concepts identified in the brainstorming and connect them to the center concept. You can use other organizational patterns such as branches, arrows or groups. More important ideas should be put nearer to the center and less important ones closer to the edge. Identify the relationship between the concepts.
Step 5: After the map has been created, look at the organizational patterns to see if the pieces fit together and make sense and if there is anything missing. After the map has been created, look at the organizational patterns to see if the pieces fit together and make sense and if there is anything missing.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Concept Mapping
The Assessment Resource Center shares both the advantages of using concept maps. The advantages outweigh the disadvantage of using concept maps. A major disadvantage of concept mapping is that it may seem intimidating to students if they have not utilized a concept map in the past. Advantages of concept mapping are that:
- it encourages collaborative learning and team knowledge mapping
- it allows for deep learning
- it is easier to understand and retain information since they are graphic
- it can be done in groups or individually
- it mirrors what business utilize to create new ideas
- it is an active assessment
By using concept maps, teachers are able to include different types of learners. Auditory learners can listen to the information the teacher is providing or they can listen to a narration of the information and create their map based on that information. Visual learners have the advantage of utilizing the concept map to learn, while kinesthetic learners are learning through writing the information on their concept map.