How Not to Lose Your Students with Concept Maps
Françoise Benay, Katharine Semsar, and Sarah Kennedy
University of Colorado Boulder Science Education Initiative and Dept. of Integrative Physiology
In the reformation of teaching practices in physiology and
other science courses, concept maps have been increasingly Methods & Results
introduced as a tool that promotes meaningful learning and
integration of ideas. Following a faculty training session on Faculty Brown Bag (Spring '07) Conclusions
Introduction to Concept Mapping
the use of concept maps in the classroom, four Integrative
Physiology faculty members independently began using
Immunology (Spring 07) Exercise Physiology (M '07) Neurophysiology (M '07) Endocrinology (Fall '07)
concept maps in four different core physiology courses. Recitation Activity Semester long homework activity Recitation Activity Recitation Activity
Students in one course in particular had substantially higher Teaching Assistant Led Faculty led homework activity Teaching Assitant Led: Faculty Implemented Teaching Assitant Led: Faculty Implemented
1. Concept mapping activities should be clearly aligned with
Goal: Goal: Goal: Goal:
perceived value in the concept map technique on the end-of- course assessments (summative or formative). The
term surveys. Following this result, we used additional end- alignment should be done in a way that is both clear for
End of Term Survey End of Term Survey End of Term Survey End of Term Survey
of-term survey questions, faculty and teaching assistant instructor but students as well.
interviews, and a review of course materials to assess what
factors lead to greater student value in the technique. Based Why? Two possible considerations.
on a review of these materials, we identified two key factors Please rate how helpful for your learning concept maps are in this course:
1- not helpful, 2- a little helpful, 3- somewhat helpful, 4 – a fair amount, 5 – a great deal A. Grades are highly motivating factor for students,
that students indicate are important for their acceptance of B. Exams may define for students what they are
the technique. One, the mapping activity needs to be supposed to be learning in
appropriately designed to meet the educational goals, i.e. not courses where learning goals do not exist.
excessively complex. Two, there needs to be adequate
feedback from teachers or teaching assistants. When
implemented properly, students view concept mapping as a 2. Adequate feedback should be provided to the students.
valuable tool in their learning of physiology, but this requires This feedback can come in various forms:
careful attention to the issues outlined above.
Students in Endocrinology found A. Instructor to student feedback
the concept maps significantly B. Peer to peer feedback.
more helpful for their learning than
did students in the other courses
(ANOVA F=24.8, p<0.001; post
Study Purpose hoc for homogeneous subsets:
In this study, we examined student perceptions of
usefulness of concept mapping across four different p<0.05).
physiology courses that varied in their implementation. ŅPlease explain how helpful for your learning concept maps are in this course."
Three of the courses had similar responses, with about half
the students saying concept mapping was of little or no Three SEI Faculty scored open ended responses Four Categories from Coding Rubric
value, while in the fourth course students found them far 76% Interrater Agreement 1. Map Structure, 2. Feedback, 3. Exam Alignment, 4. Learning Styles/Study Habits
more useful to their learning. With this finding we sought
to determine what factors led students to find concept Main Finding Second Finding
1. Positive student attitudes towards concept mapping 2. Students value mapping activities when adequate
maps helpful for their learning compared to the three other correlated with Exam Alignment Category feedback was provided
Approval: University of Colorado, Boulder Institutional
Review Board (exempt status, protocol 0108.9)
Concept Map Implementation Example Quotes from Students Used for Coding Summary of Student Open-ended Responses 1. Novak JD, Canas AJ. The theory underlying concept maps and how
to construct and use them (Technical Report IMHC Cmap Tools).
Table 5. Summary o f speci fic reasons students gave for help fulness of concept maps. Pensicola, FL: Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, 2006-
Table 4. Concept map implementation in IPHY courses. Category Exam Quot 1
ple e ple
Exam Quot 2
Spe cific Reasoning C at egories Endocrinology Exer cise Immunology
01, Rev 01-2008; available at:
Endocrinology Exercise Physiology Immunology Neurophysiology (n=41 ) Physiology
Exam e cept
ŅTh con mapswere very helpfulfor exam 3 n st
ŅI did ot find them useful mo of
ment e se
and 2 bcau the est que
t stions wer mor
e e they
time but thought were aform
Practice maps With instructor; With instructor; With instructor; With instructor; NOT helpfu l
physiology-related immunology-related non-physiology congruent with th use of the conce t maps The
e p . of busy work.Ó 2. Allen D and Tanner K. Approaches to Cell Biology Teaching:
endocrinology-related Presentation 26% 83% 23%
related Size (too big) (24%) (83%) (13%)
first test was more matching and th concept maps DidnÕt like group work (2%) (0%) (10%)
No. of terms 15-20 75 20 20+
did notreally hel with th as much
p at .Ó
Mapping the Journey – Concept Maps as Signposts of Developing
Source of terms
1 per 5-week course
1 per 2 weeks for 8
8 per week for 2
Wa nted ans wer key
(8%) Knowledge Structures. Cell Biol Educ 2: 122-136, 2003.
1 per 4 weeks ack
Feedb ŅConept mapswoul hav been usef if there
c d e ul y e
ŅThe wer not usefu becau ther
l se e Wa nted mor e discussion (20%) (0%) (31%)
within course (4 maps) (1 cumulative map) weeks weeks
(4 maps) (16 maps)
had bee some sort of key that you couldcompae y
wasbarel any instruction or help Wa nted mor e encoura gement (0%) (0%) (15%)
Setting of Recitation Homework Recitation & Recitation & your concep her
t map toÉ in orderto see whet or from th TA. ÉThere was never
e Exa m Alignment ŅBusy workÓ 2% 33% 16%
activity Homework Homework not your had the componen conneted where
all ts c anyactive discussion abou the
Done in groups? Yes, groups also had to
present their maps to
Yes, groups did not
present their maps to
Yes, groups did
not present their
they shoul be.Ó
Exa m Alignment Helped with ex am pre paration 17%
other groups and were allowed to other groups and did maps to other Valu es are given as percents of student s giving specific reasoning.
work outside class not necessarily work groups.
Thank you to Dr. David Norris, Dr. Monika Fleshner, Dr.
encouraged to give In some cases, stude nts listed multiple reasons . n= number of stude nts giving specific reaso ning.
feedback to each other. together. together outside of
Instructor Some (when asked Some (when asked
class to finish work.
No No Janet Casagrand for use of their course materials and
Feedback discussed maps and
helped clarify concepts
on how to choose
agreement to have us evaluate course practices. Thank
100% of corresponding
concepts for map)
N/A (due to the fact 6% of N/A (due to
you to the graduate students Robert Thompson and Ashley
with concept exams that each student corresponding cancellation of Bolden who led the recitations and provided information
mapping chose their own exams map activities)
activity concepts to map) about the concept map activities. This research was
supported by the University of Colorado at Boulder through
the Science Education Initiative (SEI).