Concept Maps

Concept map, as defined by Novak and Gowin (1984), is “a schematic device for representing a set of concept meanings in a framework of propositions”. The structured diagram is used to organize and visualize the relationships between a key concept and facts related to it and can be systematically evaluated. Through the use of directional lines and linking text word phrases, concept maps are capable of summarizing complex ideas.


(Torre, 2013)

Why should I use concept maps?

Concept maps help to make the learner’s thinking visible. This can help to better identify gaps in the learners’ self-perceived understanding as well. By elaborating on the relationship between terms, they gain a deeper understanding and can more critically think about the areas of knowledge that are less familiar to them.

When should a concept map be used?

Concept maps can be shared in the beginning of a learning task as an introduction to a concept or it can be shared at the end of a lesson as a summation of key knowledge about a specific concept.

When assigning a concept map, students should have at least a novice level of knowledge around the concept. The more experienced students are with the concept, the more detailed the concept map can be.

How do I create a concept map?

To start, learners begin with a general concept.  Learners are then asked to brainstorm more specific concepts or terms related to the key concept. Lastly students are asked to write linking words which denote the relationship between the first key concept and the more specific terms around it. This can be repeated a number of times to expand the depth and detail of the concept map

What type of information is best for this methodology?

Concept maps are useful in describing processes and explicit relationships. For a more structured approach, the key concept word can be chosen by the instructor. Additionally, instructors can also give students a partially completed concept map to ensure students have all the core components. Student can then be asked to fill in the blanks with the missing linking texts or other details in order to challenge their assumptions.

What are the key elements of a concept map?

A concept map is made up of several concepts, terms and word phrases connected by linking texts. This process can be created using something as simple as pencil and paper or even using digital format. (see resources tab)

Is a ‘concept map’ the same as a ‘mind map’?

No. While both concept and mind maps are ways to visually display information, mind maps are more flexible as they do not label specific relationships.

Is a ‘concept map’ the same as a ‘flow chart’?

No. Unlike flowcharts, concept maps do not visually denote hierarchy regardless of whether a hierarchical relationship exists. In a concept map, the hierarchical relationship would be explicitly labeled through the use of linking text.

Key concept
The subject of the concept map. The key concept is usually located at the top or center of the concept map.

Connector lines
Lines used to show the direction of the relationship between concepts.

Linking text
The word(s) used to explain the specific relationship between concepts.