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An investigation of the effectiveness of concept mapping as an instructional tool

Horton, P.B., McConney, A., Gallo, M., Woods, A.L., Senn, G.J. and Hamelin, D. (1993) An investigation of the effectiveness of concept mapping as an instructional tool. Science Education, 77 (1). pp. 95-111.

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The study of concept mapping as a research topic evolved from work conducted at Cornell University under the auspices of Novak (Novak and Gowin, 1984). Most recently reported is a 12-year longitudinal study of science concept learning in which Novak and his colleagues developed concept maps as a tool to represent knowledge structures (Novak and Musonda, 1991). Predicated on Ausubel’s assimilation theory of cognitive learning, these maps depicted the hierarchy and relationships among concepts. Data gathered from clinical interviews given before and after instruction were transformed from their raw, propositional form to concept maps. These “before and after” maps, which represented specific pre- and postinstruction concept meanings held by students, were then analyzed for changes in students’ cognitive structure. In summarizing the results of this study, Novak and Musonda reported that experimental students showed “many more valid conceptions and many fewer invalid conceptions” (p. 148) when compared to a similar sample of students who received no formal instruction in basic science concepts.

In the research done since Novak developed this tool, concept mapping has become a viable educational medium. For example, there is evidence that concept maps can help teachers become more effective (Beyerbach and Smith, 1990; Hoz et al., 1990), and can serve as a heuristic for curriculum development (Starr and Krajcik, 1990). Perhaps most importantly, concept maps have been reported to be a potent instructional tool for promoting what Ausubel has described as meaningful learning. Meaningful learning refers to anchoring new ideas or concepts with previously acquired knowledge in a nonarbitrary way (Novak, 1977). It is this latter role of concept maps that is the focus of this study.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Wiley
Copyright: 1993 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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