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Concept Maps: Tracking Your Learning

What should my map look like?

  1. Start with a list of key terms and ideas that appear and reappear in the article. For the first few articles, I’ll be guiding you through the readings with annotations, so you’ll want to find your own method for picking out the ideas that are important.
  2. Once you have the KEY TERMS that will make up the main branches or bubbles on your maps (I may also call these NODES from time to time), you want to think about how those terms are related.
  3. To identify the relationships for your MAPPING, determine the use of the terms: are some being used as theory? as definitions? as re-definitions? Which terms have the most connections? Which ones show up again and again?
  4. When you have a rough idea about how your KEY TERMS can be MAPPED to each other, you’ll need to link these NODES by actions, so VERBS will provide the links between your terms. Remember that these verbs should be instructional, helping readers know how to read the map and what to understand about the key terms you’ve selected.

Why can’t I just write a summary?

CONCEPT MAPS are often used in computer science to represent systems, and though not always 100% accurate, these maps are almost always comprehensive. The process of mapping includes reorganizing and rearranging information from one form to another. As I explained above, our course operates as a writing for transfer class, and this means that we are not reading fictional texts or works of literature; instead, we are reading research about writing and writing concepts to help you add some tools to your working knowledge of writing as a practice. You’ve probably never done reading like this, and some key features of the concept maps will help you practice new reading strategies that you can use long after the class is over. For example, your reading map should

  1. Force you to consciously pick key terms and ideas from the text rather than attempting to represent all the information presented;
  2. Organize the information you do select in such a way that it guides other readers through the information, offering direction and instruction in how the terms and concepts relate to one another;
  3. Consider connections between readings because the beginning and end are not static concepts; and,
  4. Represent the research within the larger discipline because you will be paying attention to specifics even as you think about the “larger picture.”

To meet the above requirements, you have to understand the reading, and the map will be summarizing the key terms and ideas for you, but the concept maps will achieve something a written summary cannot: you are responsible for determining and representing the relationships, and you must think about how you learn best in order to make the map your own.

How will you evaluate my concept maps?

For each map I read, including the ones we examine in class, your peers and I will first make sure you met the 3 requirements outlined above.

  • Does the map focus on key terms?
  • Does the map show the main ideas and purpose of the article?
  • Does the map include a reference citation?

I also have a rubric I use, but here are some key points from it. We want to “read” your map to see if you have accurately represented the main points of the readings by selecting the key terms and ideas that make up the main argument of the text.

As we’ll discuss in class, I will typically ask you to think of this as a puzzle:

  • What problem did the researcher want to solve?
  • What have other people said about this issue or problem?
  • What have other people done to find an answer to this problem?
  • How did the researcher investigate the problem?
  • What did the researcher learn?
  • What are the implications or results of the research?
  • What does the researcher want to happen?

As we read your map, we are looking for a quick summary; we’ve all read the piece, but we want to re-read the article through your eyes. We want to know where to start and how to work through your reading, so the direction we need to go should be clear.

We also want to see some of you in the map; we want to know how you are personally responding to the significance of the readings for other students, teachers, and/or a larger educational system, thereby helping us understand why you think the ideas and claims presented in this piece matter for other people—why we should pay attention.