Academic journal article Trames

Developing Child's Thinking Skills by Semantic Mapping Strategies

Academic journal article Trames

Developing Child's Thinking Skills by Semantic Mapping Strategies

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The majority of studies on teaching have explored its aspects related to the transfer of knowledge from a more proficient person to another, who is less knowledgeable (Strauss et al. 2002). In this paper we will examine teaching from the perspective of pupils' cognitive development from the point of view of the semantic mapping teaching strategy.

1.1. Concept of semantic mapping

The semantic mapping is a cognitive strategy in which information is categorically structured in a graphic/visual form. A number of similar terms can be found in literature, including semantic mapping, semantic webbing, modeling, graphic organizers, semantic networking, concept mapping, thinking maps and plot maps for labeling this concept (Fisher 1995, Lim et al. 2003, Moore 2003, Venger 1988, 1986). Of course, these terms are used to denote various strategies of graphic and visual representation of relationships between concepts and ideas. Thus, these terms are used to define similar strategies. However, some authors (e.g. Fisher) sometimes distinguish between thinking maps and concept maps: in thinking maps words/ideas are listed like in brainstorming, while in concept maps links between words and ideas are represented. In the present work the role of links is emphasized, and such terms as semantic mapping/webbing, semantic networking, concept mapping and modeling will be used interchangeably.

A semantic map, as a construction, has essentially two aspects: visual and conceptual. A visual semantic map is made up of forms, such as circles, triangles, etc. A conceptual semantic map contains "verbal information inside and between the forms, which represents relationships between words/ideas" (Fisher 1995:68).

There are various map structures that people use for representing and organizing their knowledge. A simple concept map creates a semantic web from a simple idea or a concept, while hierarchical concept mapping is a more advanced strategy to organize concepts into a hierarchy (Fisher). Information in a concept map may be organized in different ways: in a "linear" arrangement, where relationships between concepts are represented in lines and/or arrows drawn between figures. In a "spatial" form relationships between concepts are represented by a relative position of figures in space.

Semantic maps are typically organized from top to bottom. First, a more general concept (central idea) is defined. Then more specific concepts follow and a location on a map is found for each of them taking into account their interrelations and links to the central idea. A semantic map is read in the same way as it is created--from top to bottom, establishing relationships between concepts according to the lines connecting them in the linear structure of the map or according to their relative position in the spatial graphic form.

Semantic mapping as visual categorization of information serves a number of purposes. First, if one person shows to another how relationships between concepts may be represented using semantic mapping, s/he reveals the ways to categorize, relate, and organize ideas. According to Moore (2003:17), the teacher may transfer experience to children by showing them how "scientists sort and classify objects".

Fisher believes that semantic mapping is a very useful tool for teaching concept formation to children, because concept learning is a gradual process during which a child creates increasingly definite understanding of a concept by relating this concept to others. Lim et al. (2003) indicates that semantic mapping as a visual means stimulates cognitive skills of analysis, categorization, and synthesis. A study conducted by Pennequin and Fontaine (2000) using elderly subjects above 60 years of age found that semantic mapping training method may help optimize the inclusive reasoning of these individuals regardless of their level of education.

As the study by Lim et al. …

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