22 SES 14 A, Enhancing the Learning Potential of Concept Mapping within University Teaching
Concept mapping (as developed by Novak, 2010) has been demonstrated repeatedly to have a positive impact upon student learning (e.g. Nesbit and Adesope, 2006; Ritchhart et al., 2009). Whilst the tool is simple to use in practical terms, it can provide a very powerful insight to the processes of learning, even at the highest levels of university teaching encountered during the supervision of PhD students (Kandiko and Kinchin, 2012; 2013). However the use of concept mapping within higher education is not as extensive as it might be, with question marks over its fit with the traditional curriculum (e.g. Kinchin 2001), and on the measurable learning gains when observed under controlled conditions (e.g. Karpicke and Blunt, 2011).
The time and effort that needs to be invested in meaningful learning may be seen to be at odds with managerial drives towards ‘efficiency’ in delivering the undergraduate curriculum to expanding cohorts of students, and students’ strategic tendencies to focus on preparing for the exam. As a result, it has been suggested in the literature that teachers and students collude to maintain an environment of ‘non-learning’ (Kinchin et al., 2008). This is when teachers provide information and students repeat that information in an appropriate format at the right time (the examination). In this way students may pass their exams, and teachers can be seen to have done their job in preparing those students for their exams. However, academic colleagues are often heard bemoaning the quality of today’s students and that they appear to have forgotten their 1st year knowledge when they get to the 3rd year of their degree studies. This would appear to indicate that students are adopting surface approaches to learning to achieve short-term gains (passing the next exam) at the expense of long-term development of subject expertise. Even at the level of PhD students, it is clear that ‘passing’ by jumping through procedural hurdles may feature more in the knowledge structures of PhD candidates than the structure of the discipline they are shaping through their research (Kandiko and Kinchin, 2013).
One of the weaknesses in the application of concept mapping is the tacit assumption in much of the literature that knowledge is static. It is quite clear that learning is a dynamic process and that students’ knowledge structures reflect this by showing change over time and also displaying variation within contexts that may require the manipulation of conceptual and procedural knowledge (Kinchin, 2013). Indeed, in many disciplines, it may be this oscillation between knowledge structures (linear chains of practice and networks of understanding), and associated approaches to learning (segmental and cumulative learning) that are the defining conditions for professional expertise (Kinchin and Cabot, 2010; Maton, 2014).
Through a series of practical exercises using concept mapping, this interactive workshop will demonstrate how ‘non-learning’ may be avoided, and how meaningful learning can be promoted within the higher education context.
Kandiko, C.B. and Kinchin, I.M. (2012) What is a doctorate? A concept-mapping analysis of process versus product in the supervision of lab-based PhDs. Educational Research, 54(1): 3-16. Kandiko, C.B. and Kinchin, I.M. (2013) Developing discourses of knowledge and understanding: Longitudinal Studies of PhD Supervision. London Review of Education, 11(1): 46 – 58. Karpicke, J.D. and Blunt, J.R. (2011) Retrieval practice produces more learning than elaborative studying with concept mapping. Science, 331(6018): 772 – 775. Kinchin, I.M. (2001) If concept mapping is so helpful to learning biology, why aren’t we all doing it? International Journal of Science Education, 23(12): 1257-1269 Kinchin, I.M. (2009) A knowledge structures perspective on the scholarship of teaching and learning. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 3(2): http://www.georgiasouthern.edu/ijsotl . Kinchin, I.M. (2013) Concept mapping and the fundamental problem of moving between knowledge structures. Journal for Educators, Teachers and Trainers, 4(1): 96 – 106. Kinchin, I.M. (2014) Concept mapping as a learning tool in higher education: a critical analysis of recent reviews. The Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 62: 1 – 11. Kinchin, I.M. and Cabot, L.B. (2010) Reconsidering the dimensions of expertise: from linear stages towards dual processing. London Review of Education, 8(2): 153 – 166. Kinchin, I.M., Lygo-Baker, S. and Hay, D.B. (2008) Universities as centres of non-learning. Studies in Higher Education, 33(1): 89 - 103. Maton, K. (2014) Knowledge and knowers: Towards a realist sociology of education. London, Routledge. Nesbit, J.C. and Adesope, O.O. (2006) Learning with concept and knowledge maps: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 76: 243 – 253. Novak, J.D. (2010) Learning, creating, and using knowledge: Concept maps as facilitative tools in schools and corporations. (2nd Edn.) London, Routledge. Novak, J.D. and Cañas, A.J. (2007) Theoretical origins of concept maps, how to construct them, and uses in education. Reflecting Education, 3: 29 – 42. Ritchhart, R., Turner, T. and Hadar, L. (2009) Uncovering students’ thinking about thinking using concept maps. Metacognition Learning, 4: 145 – 159. Torres, P.L., and Marriott, R. de C. V. (2010) Handbook of research on collaborative learning using concept mapping. Hershey, PA., Information Science Reference.
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