Enhancing Learning and Thinking

By Robert F. Mulcahy; Robert H. Short et al. | Go to book overview

7
Knowledge Maps as Tools for Thinking and Communication

Selby H. Evans and Donald F. Dansereau

A common activity in business and academic settings is the communication of ideas in briefings, lectures, and writing. Producing these communications requires decision making, problem solving, and other activities generally described as thinking. Understanding and using the communications also requires thought.

In this chapter we will describe our efforts to explore and improve the thinking processes involved in producing and receiving communications. We have chosen this arena for a number of reasons. First, there is a strong need to improve formal communications in businesses, government, and schools. Second, the public nature of communication makes the process and products of thinking available for examination.

As part of these efforts, we have been exploring an information-processing tool for examining and enhancing the production, comprehension, and use of communication. This tool, knowledge mapping, represents information in two- dimensional box-link displays. The boxes, or nodes, contain key ideas. The links express the relationship among these ideas. (See figure 7.1 for an example of a knowledge map and figure 7.2 for the set of links used in map construction.) Knowledge mapping can be used as a tool for preparing communication as a information-presentation device, or as a technique for understanding traditional forms of communication.

Knowledge maps have advantages over displays such as flowcharts and hierarchies in that maps can represent a variety of relationships and structures in a single display. The flexibility inherent in these maps allows for the representation of a wide range of abstract and concrete knowledge domains.

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