Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

Nursing Student Perceptions of Concept Maps: From Theory to Practice

Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

Nursing Student Perceptions of Concept Maps: From Theory to Practice

Article excerpt


AIM This qualitative study describes the experience of nursing students who construct and use electronic concepts maps in theoretical and clinical settings.

BACKGROUND Although concept maps are seen as innovative and effective teaching and learning tools, little qualitative data exists that describes the process by which students learn to master the skill of concept mapping.

METHOD A descriptive approach was used to analyze the data collected during 12 semi-structured interviews.

RESULTS Motivated, open-minded students tend to perceive the usefulness of concept mapping, making the experience positive. Workshops, along with constructive feedback, were deemed essential to helping students master the skill of concept mapping.

CONCLUSION The results of this study will contribute to the successful integration of group concepts maps as part of a new competency-based nursing program. Results could also be beneficial to programs that wish to adopt concept mapping.


Concept Mapping - Nursing Students - Concept Mapping Software - Innovative Teaching - Learning Tool

As useful pedagogic tools for both teachers and learners, concept maps take meaningful knowledge of a particular subject and present it in a schematic format. Since the mid-1980s, numerous papers have been published on the subject, supporting the virtues of concept mapping for learners of all ages, across various educational settings, and in different learning institutions. Despite the plethora of studies, most of which are quantitative in nature, few researchers have explored the perceptions of learners about concept mapping or the process by which they acquire this ability. This article presents the results of a qualitative descriptive study whose goals were to examine nursing students' perceptions about the use of concept maps in their baccalaureate of nursing program. The goal was to generate recommendations to help better prepare and support future students during the concept mapping process.


Researchers consistently recognize the contribution of Ausubel's theory of meaningful learning (1968) to the development and use of concept mapping as an effective learning tool (Kostovich, Poradzisz, Wood, & O'Brien, 2007; Nesbit & Adesope, 2006; Vacek, 2009). According to the theory, new knowledge is acquired and mastered when it is linked to existing knowledge in a structured and hierarchical manner. Several researchers (Daley, Shaw, Balistieri, Glasenapp, & Picacentine, 1999; Hinck et ah, 2006; Wheeler & Collins, 2003) link the foundation of concept mapping to the works of Novak and Gowin (1984), who present what concept maps are, how they work, and the steps required when using them.

In the first meta-analysis published about the use of concept maps, Horton et al. (1993) examined studies that spanned a 10- year period (1983-1993), noting an important growth in the body of knowledge regarding concept mapping since 1985. They primarily analyzed the effectiveness of concept maps in increasing student achievement and expanding student attitudes about learning. Their results revealed that concept maps have general positive effects on both student achievement and student attitudes.

For their part, Nesbit and Adescope (2006) continued where the meta-analysis of Horton et al. (1993) left off by determining the effectiveness of concept mapping. Like Horton et ah, they confirmed that concepts maps helped learners gain and retain new knowledge, but they also found that concept maps increased learner engagement.

Concept maps stimulate metacognition and are widely perceived as a positive way to encourage reflection about what students learn and the processes by which they do so (Daley et ah, 1999). Constructing concept maps requires reflection, creativity, and insight, all of which are key skills associated with critical thinking. Over the last 10 years, many studies have explored the use of concept maps in nursing, with the results suggesting that nurses and nursing students also benefit from their use (Schuster, 2000; Vacek, 2009; Wilgis, 2008). …

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