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Classroom Assessment Techniques
Concept Mapping

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A concept map is a two-dimensional, hierarchical node-link diagram that depicts the structure of knowledge within a scientific discipline as viewed by a student, an instructor or an expert in a field or sub-field. The map is composed of concept labels, each enclosed in a box or oval; a series of labeled linking lines, and an inclusive, general-to-specific organization. By reading the map from top to bottom, an instructor can:

  1. gain insight into the way students view a scientific topic;
  2. examine the valid understandings and misconceptions students hold; and
  3. assess the structural complexity of the relationships students depict.
In addition to these applications in assessment, faculty have also used concept maps to organize their ideas in preparation for instruction, as a graphic organizer during class, and as a way to encourage students to reflect on their own knowledge and to work together and share their understandings in collaborative group settings.

Concept Map Of Concept Maps

Figure 1: Concept Map Of Concept Maps
Click here to see a larger version of this graph.

Assessment Purposes
To investigate how well students understand the disciplinary-acceptable connections among concepts in a subject, to document the nature and frequency of students' misconceptions, and to capture the development of students' ideas over time.

Concept maps provide a useful and visually appealing way of depicting the structure of conceptual knowledge that people have stored in long-term memory. As a result, they offer a readily accessible way of assessing how well students see "the big picture." They are not designed to tap into the kind of process knowledge that students also need to solve novel problems or for the routine application of algorithmic solutions. Because they probe an individual's or a group's cognitive organization, they are very idiosyncratic and difficult to compare, either among individuals or groups, or across time for the same individuals or groups.

Jason's Concept Map on the Human Circulatory System

Figure 2: Jason's Concept Map on the Human Circulatory System
[From Mintzes, Wandersee & Novak, 1998]
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