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Concept Maps

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We’re teaching our students how to translate articles into concept maps: these are graphical tool that depict relationships between concepts. They are used by students, engineers, and technical writers, to organize and structure knowledge.

Here’s an example of how one could take ideas related to energy and electricity, and show how they are related:

Electricity Concept Map
A concept map typically represents ideas and information as boxes or circles.


They are connected with labeled arrows.

The relationship between concepts often shows us cause-and-effect, with terms like: causes, requires, or “contributes to.”


How to create a concept map

Read the article

Identify the main concepts

How are the concepts related to each other?

Draw a rough map: draw each concept inside a square or circle

Draw arrows showing how one action or event affects another

You can use symbols “+” for increase, and ” – ” for decrease.

Here’s an example of an astronomy concept map

Astronomy concept map

Learning Standards

Why should teachers use concept maps? According to the National Research Council, experts differ from novices in that experts notice features and patterns of information, have acquired a great deal of content knowledge that is organized in ways that reflect deep understanding. Their knowledge cannot be reduced to a set of isolated facts or propositions but, instead, reflects contexts of applicability (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking 2000). More important, experts have efficiently coded and organized this information into well-connected schemas that help experts interpret new information and notice features and meaningful patterns of information that might be overlooked by less competent learners (Pellegrino, Chudowshy, and Glaser 2001).

As students gain mastery of concept maps, they develop an understanding of relationships among elements of a concept, ultimately making incremental gains in moving from novice to expert-level learners. Furthermore, by constructing concept maps, students enhance a metacognitive approach to learning by negotiating their ideas, taking control of their own learning, and monitoring their progress. As the learner physically draws the connection between two subtopics, he/she reinforces that same connection mentally.

From “Making the Most of Concept Maps”, Douglas Llewellyn, National Science Teachers Association

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