Once again, we return to talking about concept maps, a very useful tool for students of practically all ages. Let’s see what they are, what they are for, how they are built and even some software to make them digitally.
Concept maps: together with mind maps (which are a different thing) they are the most talked about in the whole panorama of study methods. They are also probably the most used because if there is a system that is taught starting from middle school, it is that of concept maps!
This is because they are a useful tool for everyday study. Just as the maps of the navigator, showing you the streets from above, outline the path you need to take to go to your destination, it can be said that, in the same way, the concept maps, thanks to their structure, help you understand how to move between the various concepts of a topic.
But now let’s go to see in more detail what concept maps are, what they are for, how they are built, and other useful tips to include them in your daily study method.
Concept Maps: What They Are
Concept maps were invented by the American academic Novak. Basically, his intuition was to understand that to study a topic well it is not enough to memorize the concepts in an abstract way. Instead, there is the need to understand the relationships that connect them, so as to make the memory indelible and lasting in our minds.
The concept map was therefore born as a graphic tool to represent and organize the knowledge of a topic. It is done by taking concepts, putting them on a sheet of paper, and graphically highlighting the connections and relationships that bind them to each other at multiple levels of depth.
By devising this graphical representation of thought and consequently creating the concept map tool, Novak essentially made possible what is called meaningful learning. This type of learning consists of the total understanding of a topic in all its parts: main and secondary concepts and relationships between them. A totally opposed learning to the mnemonic one according to which one studies by heart without understanding much!
Concept maps are therefore an excellent tool to study because they allow you to understand a topic very well, memorize it better and above all, being synthetic (if they are well done), they only report essential information, allowing you to review what you have studied very quickly.
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How A Concept Map Is Made
Let’s see how the structure of our map is composed! There are two fundamental elements that constitute it.
The first fundamental element is given by the conceptual nodes. These are the key concepts relating to a topic. We represent them with sentences consisting of 5 words maximum, enclosed within a geometric shape. We use different geometric shapes for different levels of depth of concepts. For example, we can use the square for the first level concepts and the circle for the second level concepts, and so on.
The second fundamental element is constituted by associative relations. They are basically the logical links between the key concepts of our map, and we represent them with arrows. Each arrow carries a sort of ” label ” that indicates the kind of relationship that exists between the conceptual nodes.
How To Build A Concept Map
Now let’s take action and see how to make a concept map from scratch, you can look at the map I have given you as an example to orient yourself.
What you need to do before even starting to write down your map is to identify the key concepts related to the topic you are studying. Then underline on your university text the keywords that may be useful to you. Remember that the best map is the synthetic one, which helps you to memorize and review faster, so at this stage remember to select only the really essential things!
Now is the time to write. Remember that while the mind map develops radially around the central topic, in the concept map all the elements are arranged from top to bottom, thus creating different levels of depth: the lower you go, the more you get into details. So, place your main topic at the top of the sheet, in the center, and then arrange the conceptual nodes in a cascade creating the necessary levels (first, second, third). Remember to use geometric shapes to distinguish depth levels!
At this point we need to detect the associative relationships between the nodes, so you are going to draw your arrows. They are positioned vertically from the highest to the lowest level. Remember to label your arrows with words or verbs that identify the nature of the relationship.