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The value of concept mapping

A concept map is a diagrammatic tool that allows students to organize subject knowledge, visualise links between different concepts and promote meaningful learning. It begins with a main idea (concept) and then shows how the main idea can be broken down into specific topics. The ideas are linked by words or phrases that explain the relationship between them.

A concept map is hierarchical, unlike a mind map which has the main idea at the centre of the map with expanded ideas radiating outwards. This means that students are having to make decisions and order the concepts as well as linking.

The example of a concept map below links together some of the ideas about the importance of osmosis to plants as we explored in Week 1.

Concept map. Osmosis is the movement of water molecules from a solution with a high concentration of water molecules to a solution with a lower concentration of water molecules, through a partially permeable membrane. Osmosis is important in the following five areas. 1. Transport: of water molecules from the soil to the xylem vessels, of sugars through mass flow in the phloem sieve tubes, of water molecules from cells to the blood plasma via the return of tissue fluid to the blood capillaries. 2. Control: of blood volume and concentration through return of tissue fluid to blood capillaries, and through osmoregulation by the kidneys. 3. Cell growth by cell expansion. 4. Support in plants provided by turgid cells. 5. Plant responses produced by the rapid movement of water into and out of turgid cells.

This example clearly shows that:

  • Main concepts appear at the top of the map and more specific concepts appear lower down,
  • Each concept appears only once on the map,
  • Links have arrow heads to show the direction in which concepts should be read,
  • Links are given meaning by words or phrases
  • There can be any number of links going to or coming from a concept box.
  • The overall layout is clear and uncluttered

Adapted from: Kinchin (2000).


Use the example above to make your own concept map for stem cells and share it on the Concept Map Padlet.

Padlet is a virtual pin-board and allows you to share text, images and other files. You do not need a Padlet account to post. We recommend you post images or upload PDF files (if you create your recognition board in another format, Save As… PDF to upload). Guidance on using Padlet.

STEM Learning and SAPS may wish to include your poster in the video diary, as an exemplar for future courses or on the STEM Learning or SAPS website. If you are happy for us to use your post in these ways, please indicate on your Padlet post with “I consent to STEM Learning/SAPS sharing”. You are very welcome to put your name so we can attribute your work.

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Teaching Biology: Inspiring Students with Plant Science

National STEM Learning Centre

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