Concept maps refer to a structural way of representing relationships among concepts of a discipline, or a part of a discipline (Jeviana & Hernadi, 2017). They are suitable for use in giving instructions, evaluation and as circular tools because of their flexibility. Concept maps are conducive for research and instruction and are necessary tools for effective and impactive learning. Concept maps are developed by labelling concepts that are framed in rectangles or circles, then linking words, that could be prepositions, placed on connecting directed/simple arrows to connect one concept to another. They may include the use of some graphical visualization of concept (Jeviana & Hernadi, 2017). A simple hierarchy is used to organize the maps.
A mind map involves the use of a non-linear learning technique to represent knowledge. It uses a central thought that represents the main concept or issues then branching it to various nodes where more related concepts are connected to it the same way as the human brain. (Stokhof et al., 2020) This study aims to find the effectiveness of using concept maps and mind maps as a learning strategy in studying the topic of Cell division among 5th-year students in Ireland. Research has shown that through these techniques creativity and idealization are effectively strengthened and are interactive compared to traditional methods, such as using chalk and board (Stokhof et al., 2020). Abbas et al. (2018) perceive concept and mind mapping as the backbone of any science. According to the researchers, mind maps paves the way for understanding concepts in the most organized manner. It allows learners to visualize knowledge with easiness and model texts not only in a piece of paper but also in their minds (Abbas et al. (2018). The researchers established that mind and concept mapping improve learners’ summative assessment scores and allow them to take the shortest time in the learning process.
Another study completed by Jones et al. (2012) had found a significant relationship between mind maps and student’s motivation. Such findings suggest that concept and mind maps might be effective approaches to improving learning outcomes. To provide a solution to the problems occasioned by traditional methods of learning which do not guarantee understanding by students, there is need to change to adapt visual techniques such as concept maps and mind maps which are active learning methods.
Although mind and concept maps are still not common in Irish schools, they are not new in the country. Various institutions, especially primary and secondary schools, have been emphasizing the need to expedite the use of the maps for more fulfilling learning outcomes. An article published in The Irish Times more than a decade ago reported that there were a significant number of Irish secondary schools that have resorted to teaching mind mapping as a study skill (Holmquist, 2006). The same news report also pinpoints research finding that using mind maps expand students’ memory by more than 10%. In trying to understand the effectiveness of concept maps in higher education, especially in Physics education in Irish universities, Broggy and McClelland (2009) noted that the traditional teaching and assessment methods were insufficient. They added that integrating concept mapping would be an effective way to augment classroom outcomes in tertiary learning institutions.
Statement of the Problem
Students often have trouble remembering scientific facts, especially in biology, and this indirectly undermines their interest in learning especially for those who are relatively weak in academics. Depending fully on traditional teaching methods worsen such undesirable outcomes and in effect, demotivate students and lead them to develop a negative attitude towards learning subjects, including biology. The traditional linear forms of teaching are therefore not sufficiently effective as tools for motivating students to learn biology and retain the knowledge learnt.
Other researchers have found out that the use of concept maps or mind maps greatly improve knowledge retention and increase student interest in the subjects tested. However, there is limited research that has specifically touched on the application of the maps in teaching various subjects, specifically Biology in Irish schools. This study sought to add to the existing knowledge-base and promote the use of the maps among students of 5th year in Ireland, especially in learning cell division which is one of the biology topics.
- Does the use of mind maps or concept maps to make notes for the topic of cell division improve student performance?
- Does the use of mind maps or concept maps to make notes increase students’ interest in learning and revising?
The Rationale of the Study
Biology is perceived to be a difficult subject by many students, and this is worsened by the use of ineffective traditional teaching methods such as note-taking method, recitation, and memorization. Such linear methods make it uninteresting to study biology and even to revise for exams. Concept maps and minds are visual and are proven to be effective in stimulating student learning and knowledge retention. Also, the value of the maps in planning, teaching, and revising educational contents can never be overemphasized. Therefore, this study aims at making recommendation for the introduction and wide use of these teaching techniques especially in fostering the learning of cell division as a topic which can be well illustrated by the use of concept maps and mind maps.
Research on the application of concept and mind maps and biology education has led to the production and publication of numerous scientific literature which has boosted various learning paradigms. This section assesses the theoretical and empirical aspects of the study by identifying various pieces of literature that underscore the topic.
Joseph D. Novak, in developing the concept mapping as an educational technique adopted David P. Ausubel’s notion that the most critical factor in fostering effective learning appreciates what the learner already knows (Davies, 2011). By beginning from the learner's knowledge level, the instructor assimilates new meaningful concepts and propositions, leading to the expansion of the learners' cognitive structures. Novak found the map exceedingly useful in teaching complex concepts in science. In his teaching practice, he could provoke the learners to note down key concepts that they know concerning a specific scientific topic under study and use boxes, circles, arrows, and lines to link words and phrases around the central concept (Davies, 2011). Continuous application of the maps proved fruitful in helping learners acknowledge what they know and what they have learned. Learners could easily portray their thoughts, ideas, and analyze what they know or what they have not captured, especially in relation to complex and challenging contents.
The success of the maps in stimulating learning outcomes is explainable using psychological constructivism theory. The theory posits that people learn through psychological organization and reorganization of new information and experiences (Juvova et al., 2015). According to the theory, learning begins by identifying and expounding on prior knowledge that an individual clearly discerns (Juvova et al., 2015). One of the early theory developers, John Dewey, postulated that if the assumptions of the psychological constructivism are to hold, then educators need to adjust the curriculum to encompass the learners’ prior knowledge and interests (Juvova et al., 2015). Jean Piaget, who is another contender of the theory, was convinced that the mind could only assimilate and accommodate new knowledge when it is built upon pre-existing concepts known to it (Juvova et al., 2015). Owing to the ideologies behind them, concept and mind maps can be presumed to be effective basis achieving such as cognitive equilibrium. They allow the learners to map what they already know and expand on it upon attaining new knowledge.
Several researchers agree that the use of concept maps greatly improve the learning outcomes in students. A study by Liu and Lee (2013) indicated that knowledge management involved in computer-aided instructions in teaching biology had a positive influence on the effectiveness of learning and use of concept maps was critical in promoting the student’s thought processing, creativity and judgment ability. Use of concept maps has been found to improve cognitive skills of students in various selected concepts in biology as advanced by Bramwell-Lalor and Rainford (2014).
Similar to this study is the research that was done by Yeong (2013), which explored the advantages and disadvantages of using mind maps in teaching cell biology at tertiary level. According to the study, mind maps provide effective learning summaries and act as quick study guides. Yeong (2013), who is also a lecturer, reported in the research that the mind maps made it easy to represent concepts and assess the extent to which the learners understood the concepts. However, the researcher pointed out that the success of the maps leans of the ability of learners to use technologically available options to present their ideologies. The Yeong (2013) reiterates the need to concept maps as a foundation to fostering its effective use. Given the complexity of cell biology, the researcher suggests the need to incorporate figures and diagrams of cellular aspects in mind-maps to enable the learners to visualize the components and processes more effectively. Learners who are in a position to develop their own mind maps on cell physiology are generally more likely to be motivated in learning and revising and are highly likely to perform better.
Although most researchers agree that the use of concept maps and mind maps improve learning outcomes in biology students, others are convinced that these learning tools do not provide any significant improvement in regards to the outcome of learning using these new tools. For example, Adlaon (2012) concluded in his research that the use of concept maps did not strongly predict student achievement in science. Moreover, results showed that the levels of concept mapping ability were not associated with the concept- mapping students’ learning gains (Adlaon, 2012). However, she suggests the use of concept maps could be made more effective by integrating it into the normal classroom learning procedures and coupling it with other contributing factors such as student motivation.
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