4 Using concept mapping to promote learning

Concept mapping can promote learning through discussion and debate. It is a purposeful activity where there is no single correct answer. If you get your students to work in groups of two to five to produce a concept map, you can listen to them as they discuss the links. Not only will this give you useful information about their understanding, but you will also be able to focus teaching on the areas where they struggle. You can also support those who need that extra help in understanding as you go round the groups. Students can learn even more if they are asked to comment on the concept maps of other groups. Concept mapping is a very student-centred activity that is easily tailored to individuals.

Pause for thought

How does using concept mapping in this way affect your role as a teacher?

There are a number of different ways that you can use concept maps in your teaching. For example, you could give your students a concept map with some blank boxes and ask them to find out what goes in the missing boxes. Similarly, you could give a concept map and get them to complete the linking words. Resource 5 gives some examples and more detail of ways to use concept maps.

Pause for thought

Can you think of other ways you could use concept maps?

Having a variety of ways of working provides opportunities for students to talk together and so share their ideas and build up their understanding and confidence. As a teacher, you become a guide and facilitator rather than a provider of knowledge.

Case Study 3: Promoting learning

In this case study, Mrs Kapur uses a concept map when she is teaching her Class VI students about solubility.

I use concept mapping quite a lot in my lessons. My students are used to it and enjoy doing them.

I was teaching my class about solubility. The students have been investigating the solubility of different substances in water and how the temperature affects how much of a substance will dissolve. Some students find this topic difficult, because there are so many terms and concepts that they get confused. To help reinforce the key ideas in this topic, I created a concept map of the topic and drew it on the blackboard, but without the lines and links [Resource 5]. The students worked in small groups of three or four to complete the map.

The students enjoyed this activity and it was very useful for them. It helped them to learn about the terms and concepts, and it also gave them a diagrammatic view rather than lots of notes. I had to help some groups of students by asking questions to get them to focus on pairs or words and help them remember what they had done in class, but all groups completed the concept map.

Pause for thought

Why is the way that Mrs Kapur used the concept map more of a teaching strategy than an assessment for learning strategy?

Concept maps are always useful in finding out what your students understand so that you can then adapt your teaching. Concept mapping is therefore a very useful assessment for learning strategy. However, when your students work in groups to create a concept map, it will not tell you what the individuals understand. Its value therefore is more in discussing and sharing ideas.

You are now going to teach a lesson with your class using concept mapping. You can only do this after you have taught your students how to create a concept map.

You will need to decide the purpose of the concept map activity beforehand. For example, will you use it to:

  • assess your students’ understanding at the end of a topic?
  • find out what they already know before you teach a topic?
  • promote discussion and the sharing of ideas like Mrs Kapur did?

Alternatively, you might use one of the ideas in Resource 6.

Activity 4: Using concept mapping in your teaching

Before your students do the concept mapping activity, you will need to remind them of how to construct a concept map.

If you are using this activity to assess your students’ understanding, you could choose the terms in advance and let them carry out the procedure given in Resource 2. Concept mapping can take some time to do. The time you need to allow for the activity will depend on the nature of the task you choose to do. It is a good idea to try it yourself before the lesson.

As your students construct their concept maps, you must circulate the classroom and check that they understand what they have to do, helping them if they have problems. You may even sit and work with a group if they are struggling to make links.

Collect in their maps so that you can examine them later.

Pause for thought

After completing the concept map activity, think about and make notes on the following questions:

  • How much planning time did you need to prepare for activity? Was there any preparation you wished you had done before the lesson?
  • How did the students respond to the concept mapping activity? Did they enjoy it? Did they find it difficult? If so, why?
  • What do you think your students gained from this activity?
  • What could have been improved? How would change your approach if you did it again?

Video: Monitoring and giving feedback

Supporting all students