How to Create the Perfect Concept Map for Effective Learning: A Step-by-Step Guide
The concept map is a powerful graphical tool that is very useful for studying and learning effectively. But how can you create the best concept map? What steps should you follow? We will try to understand step by step why studying with concept maps is a valid method for studying, but above all how to build them for effective learning!
In this article we will see:
Understanding the basic principles and key elements
When building a concept map, it is important to know where to start in designing its structure; that's why it's necessary to remember the basic principle of the concept map, which is the schematization of the main concepts. A concept map consists of two basic elements:
- conceptual nodes;
- logical and hierarchical relationships between concepts.
Studying with concept maps is effective because it simplifies the original text by highlighting the key concepts and allowing for a clearer view of the study topic, albeit simplified.
Thanks also to the connections between key concepts (through connectors such as arrows), it is possible to make a logical association of the transcribed elements that allows for better memorization. The main concepts are ordered hierarchically from the most central (often arranged at the top) to the more peripheral ones, which are arranged like the branches and leaves of an upside-down tree. It is very common and important to use symbols and images for their immediate visual impact.
A visual learning method tailored to boost student success
There are numerous studies that began mainly in the 90s that analyzed the effectiveness of the concept map as a study method and testified to the positive results found in student learning.
The cognitive motivation lies precisely in the structure of the concept map: the latter falls into a type of learning called Visual Learning that stimulates visual memory, to the point that even after a long time, one can remember what they have studied.
What should be emphasized about this method, which is perhaps the most important aspect, is that the concept map must be tailored to the student: whether it is created by the student or by the teacher, it is built based on the study and cognitive characteristics of the person, personalizing and simplifying the study experience.
You can take a look at the different types of maps (conceptual, mental, multimedia) in the dedicated article.
Rules and indications to optimize learning
And here we are at the central part of the article: what are the rules and indications for a perfect concept map? Let it be clear, by "perfect" we mean right and effective for oneself and for one's own needs, and that allows to learn any topic in the best way possible. There are various steps and points to consider that we will try to unravel together.
Analyzing, identifying, and connecting key concepts for a stellar map
Before starting to build the concept map, it is necessary to analyze the topic you are going to create it on, either on your paper book or using digital material. Divide the text into sections and identify the main and secondary concepts, maybe highlighting them with different colors depending on their importance, these will be the candidates to become nodes of your concept map. For those who have difficulties with reading, text-to-speech synthesis is an excellent tool to analyze the starting text through listening.
At this point, create relationships between the most important information and connect them together, you can do it by drawing arrows or taking notes next to the text. These connections will represent the connections between concepts of your map.
Choosing colors, shapes, and titles for main and secondary information
At this point, you are ready to start creating your map. Choose the colors and shapes (rectangular, circular, elliptical, etc.) with which you will define the main and secondary information (for example, a red rectangular node for the central topic of the map, another color for the main concepts, another one for the secondary concepts, etc.), connecting the various concepts with arrows. Alternatively, you can choose a color for each branch of the map as in the example below.
The shape of the concept map is generally that of an inverted tree, so put the title of the topic in the center at the top (Giacomo Leopardi with a yellow background) and from there, descending, insert the concepts into the geometric figures you have chosen to define their importance (in this case, rectangles of different shapes).
Identify macro-topics (e.g. the life of Giacomo Leopardi, his works, the current of thought), summarize them in keywords to develop all the concepts in an orderly manner and connect them to the higher concept. Repeat this step for each branch of the map, descending further and further into the detail of the macro-topics you have chosen and remember:
The concepts within the nodes must be represented by a few words, sometimes just one is enough!
You can open this concept map on Giacomo Leopardi and modify it online as you wish by clicking here. If you want to share it with friends or teachers, simply send them the link.
Tips and tricks for studying with software and apps
Whether it's on paper or with a software or app for creating concept maps, customizing the map is important to better memorize the topic. For example, you can choose to only put the main concepts in geometric shapes while the secondary concepts are connected only with arrows, or to put labels to indicate dates, etc. In short, you can make studying customizable and even more stimulating and fun.
The art of synthesis and keyword selection
The key to the concept map is synthesis: choose keywords, a short phrase that encapsulates the concept well, define a limited number of connections and concepts to include to avoid making the map too chaotic and scattered.
Tips for effective connections and visualizations
Below are some tips for an effective concept map:
- use predicates between connectors to make the connection more discursive (e.g. Leopardi → wrote → lo Zibaldone);
- use different shapes, styles and colors to give relevance to certain concepts;
- number the concepts so that you can follow a logical thread in the exposition aloud.
Clearly, in order to customize your map and make the experience more stimulating, it is very useful to use PC or tablet applications to create concept maps like Algor Maps.
How concept maps empower students with dsa and sen
Concept maps are indicated by the MIUR as compensatory tools for students with DSA because
“These tools relieve the student with DSA from a performance made difficult by the disorder, without however making the task easier from a cognitive point of view.” (Source MIUR)
In general, many students with Special Educational Needs (SEN) prefer the visual and auditory channel for absorbing information. The concept map plays a relevant role in the learning phase: it helps to better assimilate concepts and avoids slowdowns and difficulties (such as having to reread). The map can also become a support in the oral presentation phase for the student.
The key characteristics
Let's now see what are the fundamental characteristics of an effective concept map for a student with dyslexia or other learning disabilities:
- Less text, more high-quality images. Students with dyslexia and learning disabilities make the most of the visual channel. It is important that the map contains little text in the form of keywords and many high-impact visual images, especially for primary school students;
- Insert predicates on the arrows that connect the conceptual nodes;
- Use different colors for different sections or levels of the map;
- Everyone has their own style, it is important to leave room for creativity. Some prefer a tree layout over a radial layout, some prefer to start from top to bottom and some from left to right;
The ultimate tool for inclusive teaching in the classroom
The goal of the teacher is to ensure aninclusive teaching, making sure that any disorders, special needs do not represent an obstacle to learning. Concept maps fully meet this purpose, in fact:
- They improve the organization of ideas and knowledge;
- They help to understand and memorize the main concepts;
- They are a versatile tool because they can be consulted anywhere on all devices, PC, tablet, smartphone;
- They allow the integration of multimedia content such as photos and videos, links, audio.
The advantages of algor education's innovative applications
Digital technology has come to our aid even for concept maps. Compared to traditional paper-based map construction, applications or software for PC or tablet to create concept maps offer significant advantages because they speed up the creation of the map, offer greater customization possibilities, and make the experience more stimulating and fun.
The most innovative applications like Algor Education also allow you to:
- Share concept maps with classmates and teachers, just send them a link, they can open your map and modify it;
- Save them in cloud folders for future use;
- Create maps from digital books, PDF files, and the map communicates in the same screen;
- Use the voice synthesizer with karaoke highlighting to allow everyone to listen to the content of the map;
Furthermore, with Algor Education, there is also a new "Text Map" feature that allows you to insert texts and automatically generate a concept map. This makes the construction of the concept map even easier, halving the time and effort, especially for students with dyslexia.
Article by Rosaria Spiniello, content creator.