A Unique Use of Concept Maps as the Primary Organizing Structure in Two Upper-Level Undergraduate Biology Courses: Results from the First Implementation

Mostrom, Alison M. (2008) A Unique Use of Concept Maps as the Primary Organizing Structure in Two Upper-Level Undergraduate Biology Courses: Results from the First Implementation. In: Concept Maps: Theory, Methodology, Technology. Proc. of the Third Int. Conference on Concept Mapping. Tallinn University, Tallinn, Estonia, pp. 76-83. ISBN 978-9985-58-584-9

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Constructing Concept Maps (CMaps) allows students opportunities to: (i) create “meaning” (Novak 1998) about a concept; (ii) invest in their own personalized knowledge of a topic or reading, and (iii) develop team-building skills when working collaboratively (as they do in my classes). When these opportunities are provided in an iterative manner, students are exposed to an empowering learning experience. The objectives of this paper are two-fold: (i) to describe my two learner-centered upper-level undergraduate biology courses in which CMaps are the primary organizing structure of the courses, and (ii) to assess the efficacy of my CMaps courses using three different assessment tools (thereby providing triangulation of assessment). In my two CMaps courses, students collaboratively construct a CMap, an accompanying written summary page, and a reference page for each major theme covered in the course based on readings from the textbook and scientific literature. I serve as a facilitator of learning by providing guided inquiry in these innovative courses that do not have traditional lectures or traditional assessments (exams). An analysis of the change in structure from the first “What is Ecology?” CMap to the final “What is Ecology?” CMap reveals that students gained a knowledge base in Ecology and improved their CMap building skills over the course of the semester. An analysis of students’ perceptions of my CMaps courses reveals that students perceived that construction of CMaps facilitated their overall understanding of course material, yet the students’ perception of the usefulness of this learning tool was context-dependent. Students responded that my CMaps format was better than the Traditional Lecture (TL) format for learning scientific literature, but ranked CMaps and TL formats equally useful for learning textbook material. Despite the context- dependence perception, most students responded that CMaps format: (i) was superior than TL format in helping them develop thinking skills; (ii) envisioned constructing CMaps for other courses or scientific literature readings (showing transference by students); and (iii) preferred these courses continue in the CMaps format. An analysis of students’ comparison of my CMaps courses to TL courses using Novak’s (1998) “5 Elements of Teaching” CMap, reveals that students perceive both course formats emphasize the concept “knowledge”. Students perceive TL courses also emphasize “teacher” and “disempowering”. Students perceive my CMaps courses emphasize “empowering”, “learner”, and “interact” (in addition to “knowledge”). I conclude that my collaborative CMaps courses provide students with deep, meaningful, and empowering learning opportunities.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: Paper, CMC2008
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Q Science > QH Natural history
Depositing User: Mr. Ernest Prats
Date Deposited: 25 Dec 2012 12:06
Last Modified: 25 Dec 2012 12:06

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