Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.
What Is a Concept Map
Before we go into the definition of a concept map, we should first ask, 'What's a concept?' A concept is, basically, an idea. We all know what a map is; it is an image that shows part or the whole of something. Based on these two definitions, we can gather that a concept map probably shows the different parts of an idea.
More specifically, a concept map is diagram that goes from the top to bottom of a page with the core concept at the top and associated concepts below it in bubbles or boxes, with lines or arrows illustrating the relationships between the concepts. This tool's purpose is for organization of ideas or concepts, as well as showing how they are interconnected.
Who Invented Concept Maps?
So, who invented concept maps in the first place? In 1972, Joseph Novak, a professor at Cornell University, was studying how kids' knowledge of science changes. He created a concept map to represent this concept. He then decided that concept mapping was not only a great tool to see a visual representation of concepts and their relationships, but if his students could create concept maps, it would show that they were understanding the material they learned in his courses.
Components of a Concept Map
There are several components of concept maps that make them stick out from other visual organizers, such as mind maps. Let's go over the typical components of a concept map:
- Concepts are enclosed in boxes or circles usually.
- Concepts go from top to bottom, in a hierarchical fashion.
- The main concept(s) are usually in a bigger box or circle at the top of the concept map and other concepts branch down from it.
- The verbs on the branches connecting concepts are called linking words or linking phrases, which denote the relationship between the two concepts.
Now that we know the components of a concept map, let's look at this very basic example of one on cows:
A more complex concept map would show reciprocal relationships between concepts and have more arrows indicating various and overlapping relationships among the concepts on the map. Let's look at a concept map on depression for an example of a more detailed concept map.
Now that you have an idea of what a concept map entails and looks like, let's look at another visual organizer that is often confused with the concept map, the mind map.
Differences Between Mind Maps and Concept Maps
Remember when you had to do mind maps in elementary and middle school? Mind maps are an easier visual organizer that teachers typically ask students to do in order to sort knowledge and information on a topic before they write a rough draft of a research paper or something of the like. There are some key differences between mind maps and concept maps.
For instance, mind maps have a core concept in the middle and subtopics branching out from it. Concept maps are hierarchically organized, usually from the top of the page to the bottom. Also, mind maps usually have one core concept in the middle of the page, while concept maps may have multiple core concepts instead of just one in the middle. Instead of straight lines from a core concept to a sub-concept in mind maps, concept maps may have lines with arrows on both ends indicating a reciprocal relationship between concepts. Concept maps may also have lines going in all different directions to different topics from a concept indicating complex and diverse relationships among topics or concepts.
Benefits of Concept Maps
Mind maps are sometimes easier to construct but they do not have the benefit of showing relationships among concepts. Concept maps also make it easier to identify key concepts that teachers or students need to focus on for a particular topic. They can also act as a visual road map of relationships between concepts. Concept maps can act as a graphical overview of what students have learned. They can be a great teaching method of review before a test. Additionally, teachers can introduce a topic to students using a concept map to see how much information they know already on the topic by asking them to construct the concept map. Teachers and students or students can also create concept maps to brainstorm all ideas and knowledge on a topic together and unload information into the concept map.
For all the benefits just listed, concept maps are a very useful and popular tool for teachers and students to organize concepts and identify relationships.
Concept maps are visual organizers of concepts and their relationships that assist in teaching and learning. They are hierarchical in nature and extend from the top of a page to the bottom with bubbles or boxes and lines or arrows denoting relationships among the topics on the map. Each line or arrow has a verb phrase, also called a linking word or phrase, that identifies the relationship between the linking concepts.
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