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Classroom Assessment Techniques
Concept Mapping

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Michael Zeilik
Department of Physics & Astronomy
University of New Mexico

Michael Zeilik

"...Lacking resources to implement PSI, I struggled to create a learning environment in a large class of mature students with diverse backgrounds...I was struck at the end of one semester on how little students grasped the big picture of astronomy and how common misconceptions resisted change. Searching for solutions, I hit upon concept maps....I am particularly fascinated that the process of concept mapping can reveal structure that I did not anticipate in my maps or in students' maps..."

Concept maps assess how well students see the "big picture". They have been used for over 25 years to provide a useful and visually appealing way of illustrating students' conceptual knowledge.

A concept map is a diagram of nodes, each containing concept labels, which are linked together with directional lines, also labeled. The concept nodes are arranged in hierarchical levels that move from general to specific concepts.


Instructor Preparation Time: Minimal if students construct maps; large for designing "fill-in" maps.
Preparing Your Students: Students need training (about an hour) and continual practice.
Class Time: Appropriate for all.
Disciplines: Appropriate for all.
Class Size: Small classes if students construct maps individually; cooperative teams constructing maps will work with large (or small) classes.
Special Classroom/Technical Requirements: None.
Individual or Group Involvement: Either.
Analyzing Results: Intensive for formal scoring for large classes; concept maps are generally not graded.
Other Things to Consider: Very demanding cognitive task for students.

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