Concept Mapping

Introduction to Concept Mapping

Used as an analysis, learning and teaching technique, concept mapping visually illustrates the relationships between concepts and ideas. Often represented in circles or boxes, concepts are linked by words and phrases that explain the connection between the ideas, helping users to organize and structure their thoughts to further understand information and discover new relationships. Most concept maps represent a hierarchical structure, with the overall, broad concept first with connected sub-topics, more specific concepts, following.

Concept Map Example

Definition of a Concept Map

A concept map is a type of graphic organizer used to helpusers organize and represent knowledge of a subject. Concept maps begin with a main idea (or concept) and then branch out to show how that main idea can be broken down into specific topics.

Benefits of Concept Mapping

Concept mapping serves several purposes for users:

  • Helping users brainstorm and generate new ideas
  • Encouraging users to discover new concepts and the propositions that connect them
  • Allowing users to more clearly communicate ideas, thoughts and information
  • Helping users integrate new concepts with older concepts
  • Enabling users to gain enhanced knowledge of any topic and evaluate the information

How to Build a Concept Map

Concept maps are typically hierarchical, with the subordinate concepts stemming from the main concept or idea. This type of graphic organizer however, always allows change and new concepts to be added. Concept positions on a map can continuously change, while always maintaining the same relationship with the other ideas on the map.

  • Start with a main idea, topic, or issue to focus on - A helpful way to determine the context of your concept map is to choose a focus question—something that needs to be solved or a conclusion that needs to be reached. Once a topic or question is decided on, that will help with the hierarchical structure of the concept map.
  • Then determine the key concepts - Find the key concepts that connect and relate to your main idea and rank them; most general, inclusive concepts come first, then link to smaller, more specific concepts.
  • Finish by connecting concepts - creating linking phrases and words - Once the basic links between the concepts are created, add cross-links, which connect concepts in different areas of the map, to further illustrate the relationships and strengthen student’s understanding and knowledge on the topic.

Concept Maps in Education

When created correctly and thoroughly, concept mapping is a powerful way for users to reach high levels of cognitive performance. A concept map is also not just a learning tool, but an ideal evaluation tool for educators measuring the growth of and assessing student learning. As users create concept maps, they reiterate ideas using their own words and help identify incorrect ideas and concepts; educators are able to see what students do not understand, providing an accurate, objective way to evaluate areas in which students do not yet grasp concepts fully.

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To read our article on the theory behind concept mapping, click here.