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Concept Maps

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Concept Maps

Your picture of how ideas relate to each other

Although a few 20th-century educators claimed to have “invented” them, concept maps are an ancient tool for learning.
In the early 1970s learning expert Joseph Novak proposed them as a potent tool for learning science.

human drawingAlso known as mind maps, these tools are simply a way to visualize a concept.

Concept maps are diagrams that related different elements of a concept to each other and/or to the main idea.  These diagrams can be simple or complex—depending on your own style of learning and what helps you understand the concept.

One easy way of drawing a concept map is to draw a box with name of the concept:

 anatomy map

Then add boxes that help define or clarify or describe the concept:

 expanded anatomy map

You can add as many layers as you need to fill out what you need to learn about the concept:

more concepts in the anatomy map

Notice that the above map emphasizes only certain aspects of the concept of “anatomy.”  It could certainly be more complete.  It could also emphasize things a little differently—in a way that would make more sense TO YOU.  The idea is to draw a map that makes sense to you—that helps you learn what you need to learn about the concept in a way that you can “see the concept” easily.

Check out this video that briefly walks you through the idea of concept mapping.

Remember, both MAKING the map and STUDYING the map will help you learn.

  • By using multiple senses (vision, touch, kinesthesia [muscle sense]). you learn more deeply and remember more easily
  • By graphically organizing your thoughts, you are learning relationships within the concepts
    • It gets you THINKING instead of just staring at information
  • By spending more time with the concept, time spent drawing it out, you will recall it more easily later

Here are just a few examples from the A&P Learning Outlines:

immunity graph Click the image for an enlarged view of a “plan of attack” using both antibody-mediated immunity and cell-mediated immunity
respiration graph The “big picture” of respiratory function

Click on image to enlarge it

breathing graph Role of medullary respiration centers in quiet and heavy breathing

Click image to enlarge it

All of the examples given just above were made with the computer software Inspiration.

More concept mapping tools

Model Builder Online concept map maker from HHMI BioInteractive

Lucidchart provides flowcharts, mind-mapping, brainstorming whiteboards, and more. Free Education accounts for students/educators

Creately Online concept map maker; FREE plan with available upgrades for advanced features & templates

Canva Mind Map Maker FREE online concept map designer

EDraw MindMap FREE software download

FreeMind FREE software download

bubbl.us FREE web-based mind mapping tool

Cayra FREE software download

Text2MindMap FREE online tool turns your text (outline format) into a concept map

Venngage Graph Maker FREE online graph and chart maker

CoMapping subscription-based cooperative/group mind-mapping tools

MindNode app for Mac and iOS

iMindQ paid online platform and app

Coggle online platform for mind mapping

This concept map was made with Text2MindMap using a snippet of the outline found at Nervous System 1

mindmap sample thumbnailClick image to enlarge it


Having trouble getting started?

If you’ve never made a concept map, it may be hard to figure out how start. If you find yourself staring at a blank paper, try this short pencast . . .

Click the pencast screen above to open/save the PDF file to your computer.
Then click the livescribe.com/player link at the top of the PDF document
to view/listen to the pencast.

Click anywhere on the screen to go forward/back to any point in the pencast.

More benefits

More and more, students in the health professions and other disciplines are being REQUIRED to use concept mapping in their assignments. For example, client care plans must sometimes be submitted as a concept map.

If you gain concept mapping skills now, you will be better prepared for your professional courses!Want to know more?

For more examples and how-to hints on concept mapping, check out the links in the list below.

blogger iconConcept Maps – related articles from my blog The A&P Student

Learning, Creating, and Using Knowledge: Concept Maps As Facilitative Tools in Schools and Corporations

The Mind Map Book: Unlock Your Creativity, Boost Your Memory, Change Your Life

How to Mind Map: The Ultimate Thinking Tool That Will Change Your Life

How to Study with Mind Maps: The Concise Learning Method for Students and Lifelong Learners

Reading Guide An easy-to-follow guide to all kinds of concept mapping strategies.

Mosby’s Nursing Concept Map Creator is a standard guide to using concept mapping for patient care plans

The Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How to Construct and Use Them is long and uses some education jargon, but is a great summary of concept mapping. Includes links to related resources.

Mind Maps – a powerful alternative to conventional note taking  A brief general article on how to make concept maps

Outlining Topics with Concept Maps  This page from the University of West Florida gives a solid introduction to concept maps

Graphic Organizers  This page has many short, simple handouts that show you how to make different sorts of concept maps.

WriteDesign On-Line – Graphic Organizers  This site has numerous examples of different types of concept maps

Learning Skills Program – Concept Mapping Simple description of how to make and use concepts maps.

Mind Maps in Medicine  Collection of sample mind maps related to medical studies

How to Use Visual Collaboration Tools to Generate Creative Ideas Article that contains a comprehensive list of visual tools (including mind maps) that can be used for study of A&P

Last updated: March 18, 2024 at 13:14 pm