Concept mapping is a type of active learning that allows students to visualize relationships
between concepts. Students can construct a concept map in written or electronic form
by organizing concepts or topics hierarchically with the most general concepts at
the top followed by more specific concepts. Relationships between concepts are represented
by creating cross-links between concepts and labelling with words or phrases that
help explain the relationship.
Possible Instructional Uses:
- Pre-assess your students’ knowledge on a topic by instructing them to create a concept
map and modify the concept map throughout the learning process.
- Provide your students with a partially-filled concept map by removing some of the
concepts and labels. Instruct the students to fill in the map by filling in blank
spots and labelling relationships.
- Instruct your students to create or modify a concept map multiple times throughout
the semester. By doing so, the students will be able to see how the concept map grows
and becomes more complex as they move from one unit to the next.
- Pose a question to students and instruct them to build a concept map that answers
the question. Questions that ask for students to describe a hierarchical structure
are best for concept mapping, such as “What is the organizational structure of the
executive branch in the United States government?”
Tips for using Concept Mapping:
- The instructions you provide students when concept mapping may vary from lesson to
lesson. At times, you may provide students a list to words to map together and other
times, you may instruct students to start with a blank canvas. No matter which path
you choose, be able to justify the degree of freedom you provide students (Kinchin,
- Concept mapping should be used as a learning tool, helping students discover information,
not to help them memorize information. Therefore, concept mapping is an instructional
strategy that is best used in the beginning of a module or unit, not the end (Kinchin,
- Students may feel overwhelmed by concept maps because of their design and complexity,
so be open to providing students alternative instructions or assignments (Davies,
Davies, M. (2011). Concept mapping, mind mapping and argument mapping: What are the
differences and do they matter? Higher Education, 62, 279–301.
Kinchin, I. (2014). Concept mapping as a learning tool in Higher Education: a critical
analysis of recent reviews. The Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 62(1), 39-49.