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Using-Mind-Maps-in-Large-Lecture-Groups

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					Using Mind Maps in Large Lecture Groups
Rationale Introduction to Classical Archaeology (ALGY 111) was a large First Year module and was a compulsory component of a number of degree programmes within the School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology at the University of Liverpool. The module was taken by a wide range of students from varied backgrounds and degree programmes from across the Faculties of Arts and SES. The module was delivered in the first semester and assessed by 100% examination. The format of the exam required each student to answer three essay-style questions on at least two sections of the module content. The module was divided into three sections: Aegean, Greek and Roman archaeology. Each section was delivered by a specialist lecturer in that field and consisted of six lectures and one artefact handling session (delivered by a Postgraduate Teaching Assistant). There was one introductory lecture and one revision lecture, making a total of 20 lectures and three practical sessions. The Greek section of the module, taught by the author, consisted of six thematic lectures that covered the following major themes in classical Greek archaeology: Colonisation, Warfare, Economy, Cities, Religion, and Art. After the first year of operating this module it became apparent that the answers to exam questions had a tendency towards superficiality and were often simply a regurgitation of lecture notes. It was felt that this may, in part, have been due to the compartmentalised structure of the module itself. However, this compartmentalised structure was a necessary consequence of the module content and staffing issues that could not easily be resolved. The module structure was probably only one factor that contributed to students 'pigeon-holing' the subject matter and failing to develop crossthematic connections in their work. (Others might include strategic learning strategies and learning habits developed in school.) The ability to make such connections was agreed to be a necessary pre-requisite of a good first class answer on the exam, yet few students were achieving this. It was felt that students' ability to think laterally across their modules (and between them) was an important skill that the rigid structure of this particular module mitigated against and which needed to be dealt with explicitly in relation to the module content if they were to achieve higher grades in this and subsequent modules. Description In order to encourage students to think beyond the compartmentalised structure imposed on their learning by the module structure (and, in some cases, their own attitude to learning), a short 'mind-map' exercise was introduced into the final lecture of the module, the revision session. The mind-map (Figure 1) consisted of six circles, each naming one of the key topics covered in the Greek archaeology section of the module. This figure had been prepared using Microsoft Powerpoint. The mind-map was copied onto handouts for the students and onto an OHP film for the lecturer. (Although more sophisticated

proprietary mind-map programs are available, for the purposes of this simple exercise Powerpoint will suffice. This also has the advantage that the mind-map can be easily posted on the Blackboard VLE system, with which Powerpoint is compatible.) During the revision session, the importance of not analysing topics in isolation, but in relation to cross-thematic discussion was stressed. To illustrate how this could be done by students during their private revision, attention was drawn to the photocopied mind-map. The students were asked to discuss with the person sat next to them how the different themes on the module related to one another. The lecturer then asked the audience to provide examples that they had come up with to illustrate ways in which the key themes interconnected. Some of these were then written on the OHP film for the whole class to see using a coloured marker pen. For example, a line can be drawn between the 'Religion' circle and the 'Colonisation' circle (see Figure 2). The connection between these two themes is the fact that in Greek historical accounts of foundation events, Greek colonists always consulted an oracle (usually Delphi) before setting off to found their colony. An example of this had been discussed in detail during the colonisation lecture: Herodotos' account of the foundation of Cyrene (Hdt 4.150). The line connecting these two themes was annotated with the details of their connection and other useful facts (e.g. the reference to Herodotos, the name of the oracle). It was suggested that the students should take the sheets home with them and complete them by connecting all of the themes with each other and adding annotated examples and details. This would not only be a useful way to revise and make connections between the key themes, but the completed annotated sheets would make useful revision notes to supplement their preparation for the exam. Implementation The discussion of the interconnections between the key themes stimulated a lot of discussion between the students in the group and there were many more suggestions offered from the floor than could be written down on a single OHP. It soon became clear that the exercise and the questions that it posed were engaging students in a reflection on their learning on the module and forcing them to critically re-evaluate their knowledge of the module content. It proved to be an extremely useful tool to stimulate debate in the lecture hall and some students certainly did take it away and fully complete it as part of their programme of revision for the module. One student even suggested that it would have been useful to have six copies of the mind-map, one for each of the key themes, because the original soon became cluttered with annotated notes. The mind map presented in the revision session only related to the Greek section of the module. Although the exercise only took ten minutes to complete, there would not have been time in a single revision session to cover the Aegean and Roman material as well because of the need to discuss examination techniques and other general issues in the same session. It is fortunate that, being an introductory Level 1 module, the subject matter and organisation of the material covered in this section of the module lent itself to being

summarised onto a single sheet in this way. It is likely that more broad-ranging or indepth modules would not be able to adopt this approach. In such cases, a mind-map could be produced for each lecture and given out as a revision sheet when students exit the lecture. Alternatively, outline mind-maps could be prepared for certain key themes that are interwoven through the module and the exercise could be used as a way to encourage students to tease out the development of that topic in relation to other key themes or events. Impact It is hard to be clear what the impact of the mind-map alone was because there had been other changes to the module in the same year. These included slight changes to the wording and emphasis of the exam questions and staffing changes due to sabbatical leave. Also, a non-assessed site report assignment had been introduced, which had encouraged students to look in more focus at all of the key themes of the module as they related to one specific site of their choosing. Nevertheless, it was noted by the examiners that the students handled the crossthematic questions better than in previous years and this was certainly due in part to the use of the mind-map in the revision session. It had been intended to replicate the mind-map for the remaining sections of the module (i.e. Aegean and Roman) and to post these on the VLE as a full-p to the revision session, but the Introduction to Classical Archaeology module has now been discontinued and replaced with two more in depth modules exploring the same themes. Further Information at the SACE website Resources Download 'Figure 1', 18kb ppt (MS Powerpoint) file. Download 'Figure 2', 28kb ppt (MS Powerpoint) file.


				
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