Why this approach is important

All your students will have some knowledge of most topics that you teach, but students’ ideas and understandings will differ and may not be the same as the scientific understanding. Assessing your students’ knowledge and understanding is an important part of your role as a teacher both at the start of a new topic and at the end of a topic to find out what they have learnt.

Concept mapping is important because it can:

  • help you find out what your students know and understand before you teach a topic so that you can target your teaching more precisely to their learning needs
  • help your students communicate complex ideas more easily and quickly than writing prose
  • help students integrate new concepts with existing ones
  • show how students see the relationship between ideas or people (White and Gunstone, 1992)
  • be used to find out how your students’ understanding has developed
  • be used as a teaching tool and as a revision aid.

Resource 1, ‘Assessing progress and performance’, gives insight into why you need to use techniques such as concept mapping to monitor students’ progress and to plan to support and extend their learning more effectively. Read the section on formative assessment in the resource before you try a concept mapping task yourself so that you can understand the thinking involved in constructing them.

What you can learn in this unit

1 Developing concept maps