Teach the Earth > Teaching Methods > Assessment > How to Use Assessment Strategies > Developing Concept Maps

Making Thinking Visible

Concept maps are visual representations of linkages/connections between a major concept and other knowledge students have learned. Concept maps are excellent tools to provide instructors with diagnostic pre-assessment prior to beginning a unit and formative assessments during learning activities. Concept maps also provide immediate visual data to geoscience instructors on student misconceptions and their level of understanding. Angelo and Cross (1993) indicate that concept maps develop student abilities in certain critical areas. Among these are:

Getting Started With Concept Mapping

Students may not be familiar with concept maps and it is suggested that they practice with familiar concepts. Michael Zeilik's website Concept Maps provides step by step directions on the construction and use of concept maps in the college classroom. Concept maps can provide a springboard for classroom discussions of systems and relationships among major and sub-concepts in the geosciences. They can be used to focus learning if concept maps are developed by the instructor, or may be used as pre-diagnostic assessment tools or formative assesments as concepts are developed.

Formative Assessment Using Concept Mapping: A Geoscience Application

At the beginning of an Introductory Metroeorology unit on Moisture in the Atmosphere the instructor passes out copies of a concept map (Acrobat (PDF) 450kB May2 05) to her students. The major concepts are identified, but detail is missing. As the unit progresses the instructor asks students to add to the original concept map. For example the students could add:
As the unit progresses the students continue to see the major concepts repeatedly, and the instructor can track student understandings of the relationships of parts to the whole (or misconceptions) as they arise by collecting and reviewing the concept maps.


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