Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

Evaluating a Concept Mapping Training Programme by 10 and 13 Year-Old Students

Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

Evaluating a Concept Mapping Training Programme by 10 and 13 Year-Old Students

Article excerpt

Abstract

The PISA 2000 study found large differences between countries in terms of quality of learning. In some countries, students prefer rote learning to meaningful learning. However, such memorisation of the material does not lead to recallable and usable knowledge in the long run. Ausubel's (1968) well-known theory serves as a basis for several techniques of meaningful learning, including concept mapping, which emphasises the visual organization of comprehended information. The present study reports the results of an experiment using concept mapping for deepening students' understanding of teaching materials. It focuses on definitions frequently used in science and Hungarian grammar lessons. Results indicate that concept mapping training programmes can improve participants' achievement. Experiences show that the technique of concept mapping is frequently unfamiliar to students. More time would be needed for practising and using it in different learning situations.

Keywords: Meaningful Learning; Concept Maps; Training Programme

Introduction

In the process of teaching, two important questions arise. The first is how much fact and information students should learn. The second is in what way and in what textual form they should be presented. Successful learning is a widely researched topic (Csapó, 2007; Waeytens, Lens & Vandenberghe, 2002). Techniques and strategies that improve student achievement were investigated within the framework of these studies. When these learning methods are compared, the method of concept mapping is unique among visual learning techniques (Novak, 1990; 1998; Novak & Gowin, 1984). Concept mapping is widely used and has a variety of applications. Among others, it is used to explore prior knowledge (Gurlitt, Renkl, Faulhaber & Fischer, 2007), to visually represent texts (Hardy & Stadehofer, 2006), and to reveal problems (Barroso & Crespillo, 2008) and misconceptions (Berionni & Baldoni, 2004, Himangshu, Iuli & Venn, 2008). In general, it is a tool that is used to facilitate meaningful learning and help students to represent their knowledge in a visual form.

In Hungarian schools, grammar is one of the most problematic subjects. One reason for this is that schools place an artificial burden on students by an early introduction of grammatical definitions and rules in mother tongue education. The PISA 2000 results show that Hungarian students are relatively weak in using meaningful learning strategies that aid their conceptual understanding (Artelt, Baumert, Julius-McElvany & Peschar, 2003, 40). These results indicate that students have a preference for using memorizing strategies. However, in the long run, rote learning does not lead to recallable knowledge. Although rote learning can be useful for some learning purposes, the range of its possible applications is fairly limited. The problem arises when students use rote learning too frequently, and memorize information without seeking to establish connections between concepts. Therefore, rote learning should be replaced by meaningful learning, which helps foster a deeper understanding of things. This underlying assumption of the need for meaningful learning serves as the basis for our developmental programme. The goals of our programme are to be accomplished via the use of concept mapping.

There are numerous ways to visually construct concept maps. Below, I provide an example by Novak & Canas (2003, Figure 1.).

Concept maps represent organized knowledge. They are composed of concepts that are connected by linking words. Two concepts and the interconnecting words make up propositions, which comprise units of meaning. In the cognitive structure, knowledge itself is built up of propositions which can be connected to each other. The proposition of concepts in the hierarchical structure depends on our creativity and prior knowledge. Concepts are stored in the form of objects and events, and they are labelled as symbols or words, which may be connected by lines or arrows. …

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