What is a concept map?

We explain what a concept map is, the elements that compose it and what it is for. Also, how to make one and examples.

  1. What is a concept map?

Concept maps are schematics , graphic representations of several interconnected ideas , which are made using two elements: concepts (or short, short phrases) and unions or links. Concept maps are very useful tools for anyone who wishes to study or make exhibitions. Its usefulness is indisputable and they are, together with the memo-technical rules, one of the most practical ways to internalize content.

The concept map is a technique of thematic synthesis or method of study, frequently used by students, and that consists of visual schematization of the key concepts of the topic to be learned . The concepts are written according to a hierarchical order and are connected to each other by means of lines and link words , thus creating a true map of relationships.

This tool was developed in 1960, following the theories around the learning and knowledge acquisition of David Ausubel, and in 1970 it was successfully implemented by Joseph Novak , according to whom every conceptual map comprises the following elements:

  • Concepts . Concepts are mental images associated with specific terms, to denote a concrete idea. They are abstract but specific constructions, which has to do with the most important points of the subject to study.
  • Linking words . The link words are those that allow us to unite different concepts and indicate the type of relationship between them. They serve as bridges between one and the other and mark the reading sequence of the concept map.
  • Propositions . Proposals are verbal formulations of a given idea, that is, the bringing into relationship of a concept. This means that propositions are constructed from concepts and linking words, like a sentence.

According to Novak, the failure of the education system is that it only encourages passive reception learning, the student does not penetrate the meanings, just repeat. Instead, through concept maps, the student relates directly to the concepts , must make associations and is no longer a mere passive recipient.

Concept maps are widely and widely applied in various study techniques and are recognizable by their ability to synthesize, their visual hierarchy of information and their ability to generate a specific structure or form according to the subject being studied. It is an extremely versatile tool.

  1. Concept map examples

The following is an example of a concept map:

Theme:  Trophic chains:

Trophic chains

Reflection : In any ecosystem there are beings that produce chemical energy , such as plants, and beings that feed on them, such as herbivorous consumers or primary consumers. They, in turn, feed secondary consumers or predators. The previous three eventually die and leave available organic matter to the decomposers, which feed on it and degrade it so that it re-nourishes the earth, from which the producers absorb their nutrients again.

  1. What is a concept map for?

Concept maps are tools for study and learning. They allow to organize and represent ideas in a different , visual way, which facilitates and stimulates learning compared to a block of text .

This allows the rapid and creative generation of novel ideas, of ways of interpreting the subject and of communicating very complex ideas effectively, which would require a lot of text to enunciate.

Commonly, however, a concept map is considered to be a complement and not a replacement for reading and traditional methods of acquiring knowledge, or for oral and written expression.

  1. How is a concept map made?

To make a concept map you must follow the following steps:

  • Select . Once the topic or text to be chosen has been chosen, key concepts and central ideas should be extracted from it, which should not be repeated, and a list will be made with them. These concepts should be the main focal points of the subject.
  • Group . Then the concepts must be visually ordered according to the proximity or the obvious relationship, forming sets in which often a concept can be repeated: those will be the most general concepts.
  • Order . Once the sets are obtained, the concepts within each one will be ordered from the most general to the most specific, or from the most abstract to the most specific, obtaining a hierarchy.
  • Represent . The concepts must then be drawn, pigeonholed in boxes, boxes or in any way that allows them to better visualize and understand the hierarchy: the more general will be larger, etc.
  • Connect . Once the hierarchy is established and represented, the concepts must be interconnected, by means of links that may be arrows (indicating causality, belonging, etc.) or lines on which the necessary link words can be written.
  • Check . Once everything is linked, the links should be read as if they were propositions and verify that what they dictate is true, that is, the meaning of what we wanted to express through the concept map. If it is not, the error must be corrected.
  • Reflect . Contemplating the map as a whole, we can reformulate the knowledge expressed and establish the different relationships between the concepts.
  1. Tips for developing a concept map

In a concept map, a “concept” is associated with a set of ideas , which are summarized, synthesized or simply evoked. These “concepts” will join others through arrows, square brackets, etc. It is important to be clear about the meaning of each “union,” that is, if they express causality, reference , or some kind of unexplained association.

Not every union means the same in all conceptual maps and as they are generally for private use, each one has a clear sense. However, we can use them for certain exposures , and everyone who sees a concept map should understand what is meant by them.

For a concept map to be clear, it must be organized in such a way that with just a brief glance we understand what is meant and what concepts are involved. Therefore, the main concepts must be found in a preferential part of the scheme (above, to the side; this will depend on the ordering it has).

On the other hand, the concepts must be relevant in the subject we are dealing with , and must not contain more than three or four words. We should not include ideas that are not relevant and the connections should be clear. It is very common to see in the concept maps of the students a “sea of ​​arrows”, that is, arrows that intersect in all directions and directions.

To make a concept map, you must first read all the text on which our map will be based. It is not a good idea to go making an outline as we read, since the author may be giving an example, or just the prelude to another more important topic. It is a good idea to write down the keywords on a draft sheet next to the text, then join them once the entire process is finished . Concept maps are undoubtedly a great tool for any student.

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