Concept maps are the latest step in an exciting line of visual aids for learning. With increasing understanding of the importance of teaching strategies which make use of all the senses, learning maps, or "knowledge maps" form an important additional tool for developing understanding of a topic through visual learning.
I am a science teacher in a small secondary school and have used visual mapping with my classes for several years, both to develop my own teaching strategies and to overview topics for students. Whilst working for a process modelling company in a business environment, I learnt a mapping technique which is described on this site under the "association maps" heading. This is very similar to concept mapping, but easier to develop if you are not an expert. An association map is a very effective way to develop a concept map if you are just starting out.
Concept maps, mind maps and association maps have a number of effective uses in education, and can support many teaching strategies.
Cognitive mapping - using a learning map where ideas are linked with lines to form a picture, allows students to see the language of the topic laid out before them. They can link words they know to words they don't via the lines on a cognitive map, and when they are discussing the topic, they can use this map to access the correct words for the concepts they are discussing. Maps for students can sometimes be accessed on the web, but there are advantages to developing a "knowledge map" for yourself.
Teaching strategies - developing a cognitive map for a topic enables the teacher to get a better idea of where the "hidden" complexities lie, and can help to highlight the most effective route through a topic. Getting the students to develop a cognitive map, or just to map concepts visually, often highlights areas of misunderstanding that they did not even know they had.
The mapping concept - The visual mind has a powerful place in learning, which is very effectively supported by the mapping techniques discussed in this website. Cognitive mapping can provide a clearly structured overview of a whole topic, or can be broken down into bite size chunks. Small pieces of learning maps enable students to focus on the areas they have understood and then build links to the areas they are still unsure of. The non-linear nature of some of the mapping techniques also allow students to choose their own entry point to the information.
When concept maps first came to my attention, I found there was only a limited amount of information around, and very few maps for students, so I hope this site will help if you are in the same situation. The links at the top of the page will take you to the three main types of cognitive map. If you have other maps you would like to see included, then please contact me.
Various people have also asked to share the learning maps I draw (these are association maps which are very similar concept maps) and so I will be uploading maps for students over time. You are welcome to download and use them (available on the downloads page), I would really appreciate some feedback on how effective they have been if you do. If you have concept maps of your own which you would like to share, then again feel free to contact me about posting them here.
This website gives an overview of three visual mapping options, concept maps, mind maps, and association maps, to support an understanding of the differences between them, and to help visitors to select the option best suited to their needs.
The author approaches the topic from a secondary science teaching background, coupled with a spell using graphical mapping techniques to support process modelling in a business environment.