What is a Concept Map?

What Does Conceptual map Mean

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

A concept map visually presents the concepts to be studied.

What is a concept map?

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

Concept mapping is a technique of synthesis subject or method of study, often used by students, and that is the visual outlining the key concepts of the subject that seeks to learn . The concepts are written according to a hierarchical order and are connected to each other by lines and linking words, thus creating a true map of relationships.

This tool was developed in 1960, as a result of the theories about learning and the acquisition of knowledge of David Ausubel, and in 1970 it was successfully implemented by Joseph Novak , according to whom every concept map includes the following elements:

  • Concepts. Concepts are mental images associated with specific terms, to denote a specific idea. They are abstract but specific constructions, which have to do with the most important points of the subject to be studied.
  • Linking words. The linking words are those that allow us to unite various concepts and indicate the type of relationship between the two. They serve as bridges between one and the other and mark the reading sequence of the conceptual map.
  • Propositions. Propositions are verbal formulations of a certain idea, that is, the relationship of a concept. This means that propositions are built from concepts and linking words, like a sentence .

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

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

See also: Overview table

Concept map examples

The following is an example of a concept map:

Topic: Food 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. On them, in turn, secondary consumers or predators feed . The previous three eventually die and leave organic matter available to decomposers , who feed on it and degrade it so that it re-nourishes the soil, from which the producers absorb their nutrients again.

What is a concept map for?

Concept maps are study and learning tools. They allow you to organize and represent ideas in a different , visual way, which makes learning easier and more dynamic compared to a block of text .

This allows the quick and creative generation of novel ideas, ways of interpreting the subject and 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 oral and written expression.

How do you make a concept map?

To make a conceptual map, the following steps must be followed:

  • To select. Once the topic or text to be studied has been chosen, the key concepts and central ideas must be extracted from it, which should not be repeated, and a list will be made with them. These concepts should be the great focal points of the subject matter.
  • Group. Then the concepts must be visually ordered obeying the proximity or the obvious relationship, forming sets in which often some concept can be repeated: these will be the most general concepts.
  • Order. Once the sets have been 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 concrete, obtaining a hierarchy.
  • Represent. The concepts must then be drawn, pigeonholed into ovals, boxes or any shape that allows better visualization and understanding of the hierarchy: the more general will be larger, etc.
  • Connect. Once the hierarchy has been established and represented, the concepts must be interconnected, by means of links that can either be arrows (indicating causality, membership, etc.) or lines on which the necessary linking words can be written.
  • Check. Once everything is linked, the links must be read as if they were propositions and verify that what they dictate is true, that is, the meaning of what we have wanted to express through the concept map. If not, the error must be corrected.
  • Reflect. Contemplating the map in its entirety we can reformulate the knowledge expressed and establish the different relationships between the concepts.

Tips for creating 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 be linked to others through arrows, brackets, and so on. It is important to be clear about the meaning of each "union", that is, if they express causality, reference , or some type of association that is not explicit.

Not every union means the same thing in all concept maps and as they are generally for private use, each one is clear about their meanings. However, we can use them for certain exhibitions , and everyone who sees a concept map should understand what is meant in 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 diagram (above, to the side; this will depend on the ordering that it has).

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

To make a conceptual map, you must first read all the text on which our map will be based. It is not a good idea to make an outline as we read, since the author may be giving an example, or it is just the prelude to another more important topic. It is a good idea to write down the keywords on a scratch sheet next to the text, and then put them together after the whole process is finished . Concept maps are without a doubt a great tool for any student.

It can help you: Mind map

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