Introduction to Concept Mapping

Concept mapping is a tool that will be used by Project GUTS to understand how middle school students integrate knowledge of complex systems and experience with place-based learning into their conceptual view of the world. Concept maps are made up of "propositions". A proposition is two concepts connected by a linking phrase or word. We will be asking students to develop concept maps to represent what they know about different complex systems (e.g. epidemics, traffic jams) and topics in their community or school. These maps can be used to assess how students' knowledge changes over the
course of their participation in Project GUTS by comparing earlier maps to later ones.

Concept maps have theoretical grounding in Ausubel’s theory of cognitive learning (Novak & Gowin, 1984, pp. 97-105)

  • Cognitive structures are hierarchically organized
  • New information subsumed under more inclusive, general concepts
  • Good hierarchical structures start with broad concepts that lead to more specific, less inclusive concepts, show sets of relationships between a concept and concepts subordinate to it.
  • Meaning of hierarchies derived from relationships presented on concept map
  • Concepts in cognitive structure (conceptual networks) undergo progressive differentiation
  • Integrative reconciliation occurs when 2 or more concepts are recognized as relatable in new propositional meanings and/or when conflicting
    meanings of concepts are resolved

How are we using concept maps in GUTS?

  1. As a way for youth to represent what they know about different complex systems (e.g., epidemics, genetics) and topics in their community or school.
  2. As a way of assessing how students’ knowledge changes over the course of their participation in GUTS by comparing maps made when a topic is first introduced/selected and again at the end of the summer session and each 4-week unit.
  3. As a way to investigate how youth integrate complex systems and knowledge gained from place-based learning into their own conceptual networks.