Mapping Concepts

Creating visual maps of what students think are the key concepts in a topic to be learned, before and after study, to see the effects of the learning process and to deepen learning.
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About this Micro-credential

Key Method

Student-created, concept maps are used at the beginning and end of a learning unit to help visualize, clarify, and deepen understanding and to chart the changes in students' mental concept map as a result of the learning process.

Method Components

As students engage with a new topic, the teacher leads them through the process of mapping that idea or topic. This process can be conducted individually, in small groups, or in whole-group instruction.

Steps in concept mapping

Pre-Study Map Creation:

  • Students list key concepts or ideas they already know some things about and key concepts or ideas they know little or nothing about (other than what you explained to them).
  • Students diagram ideas that are strongly related to the concept they have prior knowledge about. Possible topics of discussion include:
    • Some ideas are parts of others and can go under, the bigger concepts in their idea maps as subcategories; demonstrate how this might look for a simple hierarchy of ideas (subcategories can have their own subcategories, and so on).
    • Linking words, such as are a part of, have, can, or is an example of, can be added to the lines connecting the ideas; students may also add arrows to these lines to show which way these relating connections go.
  • Students combine small, individual idea diagrams into one large map.
  • Students add in other unfamiliar key ideas where they might fit on the master map.
  • Students present their maps, discuss the similarities and differences; optionally, they may try to make a group idea map by combining the ideas from each of individual student's idea map.

Post-Study Map Creation:

  • Students make new individual and small-group idea maps of most of the key ideas they studied, as they did at the beginning of the unit.
  • Students compare their pre- and post-study maps. Possible discussion topics include:
    • How the post-study individual maps are different from the original maps
    • How the group maps are different from the first time they did them
    • How the map changes reflect changes in their understanding and what they learned

Suggested preparation

  • Discuss with students ways to visualize the ideas in their head on paper, screen, or physical models to better see what they know, and how learning more about something can change their mental maps.
  • Discuss and demonstrate tools they can use to map their knowledge of important concepts they will be studying and how these ideas are related. Example resources include:
    • Paper or post-its and markers
    • Digital applications such as Kidspiration/Inspiration, CMAP, XMind, Creately, Gliffy,, Maptini, Mindnode, Idea Sketch, Popplet, or Prezi, among others.
    • A physical model using available arts, crafts, shop, or other materials

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

To gain a deeper understanding of the key concepts and principles in a subject or topic area, it is useful to create concept maps, or graphic organizers, that visually illustrate the relationships between the concepts and principles associated with the topic.


Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

Following are the items you must submit to earn this micro-credential and the criteria by which they will be evaluated. To earn the micro-credential, you must receive a passing evaluation for Parts 1, 3, and 4 and a “Yes” for Part 2.

Part 1. Overview questions

(200-word limit for each response)

  • Activity Description: What kind of project activities did you and your students engage in to become more proficient in applying concept mapping to improve learning? Please describe the learning activities and strategies you used.
  • Activity Evaluation: How do you know your students increased their proficiency in concept mapping by engaging in the activities, and what evidence did you collect that demonstrates these learning gains?

Part 2. Evidence/artifacts

Please submit work examples from two students (writing, audio, images, video, or other products) that demonstrate progress toward the Mapping Concepts competency, including the students’ beginning and final fact maps, reflections on the changes, and other relevant items.

Part 3. Student reflections

For the two students whose work examples were included above, submit their student-created reflections on the Mapping Concepts activities they experienced. Use the following questions as guidance (200-word limit for each reflection):

  • How did the concept mapping tools and strategies help you visualize what you did and did not know and what you learned from your studies?
  • How did concept mapping help you become a better learner and understand yourself better?

Part 4. Teacher reflection

Provide a reflection on what you learned, using the following questions as guidance (200-word limit):

  • What was the impact of engaging your students in the Mapping Concepts activity?
  • How will experiencing these project activities shape your daily future teaching practice?

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


Download to access the requirements and scoring guide for this micro-credential.
Requirements for Mapping Concepts
How to prepare for and earn this micro-credential - in a downloadable PDF document

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