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Describe cognitive and concept mapping.

Describe cognitive and concept mapping.

Cognitive and Concept Mapping

Another concept to arise out of cognitivism is that of cognitive maps, which would go on to have many practical applications in the field of learning. Cognitive maps are mental representations that encompass a range of symbolic representations, including contextual, conceptual, and emotional. (See Figure 2.4.) They are mental representations of an area or space (Arthur & Passini, 1992). The term cognitive map was first used by E. C. Tolman (1948), a researcher first associated with behaviorism. (See Chapter 1.) Cognitive mapping is the term used to describe the mental processes that occur as connections are formed when a learner makes a cognitive map—the mental visual representation(s) of the connections.

Figure 2.4: Cognitive mapping

Cognitive maps are mental representations that reflect symbolic representations. Different kinds of cognitive maps may represent different aspects of associations.

A cognitive map that uses shapes and lines to represent the concept cognitive map. A box labeled “cognitive map” is connected to three sub-boxes labeled “contextual,” “conceptual,” and “emotional.”

Adapted from “Cognitive Map Dimensions of the Human Value System Extracted From Natural Language,” by A. V. Samsonovich and G. A. Ascoli, Conference on Advances in Artificial General Intelligence: Concepts, Architectures, and Algorithms: Proceedings of the AGI Workshop 2006 (pp. 111–124), 2007, retrieved from Copyright 2007 by A. V. Samsonovich and G. A. Ascoli. Adapted with permission.

We often create cognitive maps unconsciously. Downs and Stea (1980) emphasized that even if the process occurs involuntarily, “a cognitive map exists if an individual behaves as if a cognitive map exists” (p. 10). Researchers also have suggested that the knowledge represented in cognitive maps (and schemata) is constructed from our physical environments, our social relationships, and our continually developing associations with these variables (Baldwin, 1992; Markus & Wurf, 1987; Sandler & Rosenblatt, 1962).

Cognitive maps are constantly evolving based on new knowledge, new experiences, and even changes in beliefs, morals, emotional states, and attitudes. Learners can improve their learning experiences by being acutely aware of the cognitive maps they construct. Creating a tangible, visual representation of the cognitive map can be helpful and can include concepts, physical locations, physical items (such as machinery), processes, semantics, and more. Two styles of maps to experiment with are semantic maps and visual think maps. Semantic maps are graphic representations that show how key words or concepts are related to one another. (See Figure 2.5.) A visual think map includes visual schemata to communicate information through informative graphics or designs. (See Figure 2.6.) Geographic maps, diagrams, infographics, mind maps, brainstorms, sketchbooks, notebooks, flowcharts, and timelines are some examples of visual think maps.

Figure 2.5: Semantic map

Semantic maps are visual representations that organize how concepts are related. In this example, various types of desserts are organized into three different categories.

A semantic map that uses circles and lines to show associations. The center circle, “dessert,” is connected to three related circles: “cake,” “pie,” and “ice cream.” Each of the related circles is also connected to additional circles. “Cake” is connected to “chocolate,” “white,” and “lemon.” “Pie” is connected to “fruit” and “cream.” “Ice cream” is connected to “chocolate,” “vanilla,” and “strawberry.”

© Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

Figure 2.6: Visual think map

This visual think map provides an illustration of the thinking process involved in baking a chocolate cake.

A visual think map that uses boxes, lines, and arrows to illustrate the steps required to bake a chocolate cake and the order in which the steps should occur. At the top is “select a recipe,” which then progresses to “buy the ingredients.” After the ingredients are acquired, additional steps are identified, progressing along different paths until the finished cake is removed from the oven and cooled. A line and arrow from the final step, “cut, serve, eat, and enjoy,” tracks back up to the top of the map, where the process can begin again at “select a recipe.”

© Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

The excerpt in this section will continue to help you develop your understanding about cognitive mapping strategies and their applicability to learning. Wheeldon and Faubert (2009) focus on concept mapping , a procedure for organizing concepts concretely (drawn, in tables, etc.), rather than only in one’s mind (cognitive mapping). The examples shared can be utilized as strategies for your own learning success.

Excerpts from “Framing Experience: Concept Maps, Mind Maps, and Data Collection in Qualitative Research”

By J. Wheeldon and J. Faubert

[. . .] Concept mapping as is traditionally understood today was first referred to in the 1970s by Stewart, Van Kirk, and Rowell (1979) and subsequently developed by Novak and Gowin (1984). The latter researchers remain involved in the discussion and dissemination of the value and utility of maps, mapping techniques, and analysis. In general terms, concept mapping is a technique that can demonstrate how people visualize relationships between various concepts (Lanzing, 1996). Related to cognitive maps in psychology (Tolman, 1948), concept maps provide a visual representation of dynamic schemes of understanding within the human mind (Mls, 2004), yet some debate exists about what is and what is not a concept map (Åhlberg & Ahoranta, 2004). Traditionally, concept maps have been used in quantitative research based on strict definitions in the fields of science education, engineering, mathematics, psychology, and health, yet the potential for the wider use of maps in the social sciences might require a less rigid definition (Axelrod, 1976). Although concept maps can include labeled concepts, linking words, and clear hierarchies, they might also include other sorts of visual or graphic representation of concepts or propositions that attempt to convey an understanding or relationship among different concepts within a map. These might include word links, directional arrows, or just simple connectors like lines or overlapping circles (Åhlberg & Ahoranta, 2004). In Figures 2.7 and 2.8, we provide two examples of maps. The first adheres to a more traditional understanding of concept maps, as it includes clear and unique concepts, lines suggesting hierarchical relationships, and linking words.

Figure 2.7: Simple concept map

This simple concept map illustrates how the sun is associated with other concepts such as plant life and people.

A simple concept map that illustrates the relationship among example concepts. Beginning with “sun,” the figure uses arrows and descriptive text to identify how “sun” is associated with “plant life,” “people,” “erosion,” “clothing,” and “homes.”

Adapted from “Framing Experience: Concept Maps, Mind Maps, and Data Collection in Qualitative Research,” by J. Wheeldon and J. Faubert, 2009, International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 8(3), 70. Copyright 2009 by J. Wheeldon and J. Faubert. Adapted with permission.

The second map (Figure 2.8) is much more free form. Although it also contains useful data and demonstrates relationships, it is unlike the first example as it relies on overlapping circles to denote different kinds of nonhierarchical connections.

Figure 2.8: Free-form concept map

Where do your values come from? An individual’s values can be influenced by different environments, such as school, and people, such as friends and family, that he or she interacts with.

A free-form concept map that uses circles to show the relationships among elements that could influence an individual’s values. Some circles overlap a little or a lot; some circles do not overlap at all. Circles labeled “parents,” “religion,” “media,” “friends,” and “school” each touch the larger central circle labeled “values.” Circles labeled “teachers” and “basketball coach” touch the circle labeled “school.”

Adapted from “Framing Experience: Concept Maps, Mind Maps, and Data Collection in Qualitative Research,” by J. Wheeldon and J. Faubert, 2009, International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 8(3), 70. Copyright 2009 by J. Wheeldon and J. Faubert. Adapted with permission.

If a traditional definition is used, Figure 2.8 would not be considered a concept map. As it is without a clear hierarchy, linking words, or even unidirectional arrows, some might suggest that this sort of map would be better described as a mind map (Buzan, 1974; Buzan & Buzan, 2000). Yet Figure 2.8 does identify individual concepts and suggest a relationship between them. Although it might not be appropriate to attempt to use this map alone to understand how an individual perceived the origin of his or her values, it does offer a view of individual understanding. Indeed, the way in which this map is constructed might give way to more qualitative coding schemes or assist in the development of subsequent data collection approaches, including interviews or focus groups (Wheeldon, 2007). The immediate value of this definitional flexibility is that it can greatly expand the use of maps. According to Ebener et al. (2006), concept maps offer an opportunity to assist with analysis of complex processes and can play a role in knowledge translation. In addition, because concept maps can be designed in a variety of ways, they may be important tools for qualitative researchers to organize research, reduce data, analyze themes, and present findings (Daley, 2004). As such, maps provide a valuable means to collect data from research participants in social science research projects (Trochim, Cook, & Setze, 1994). [. . .]

Although the use of concept mapping varies widely, how participants construct maps can demonstrate their belief in the importance of and commonality between different concepts and the nature of perceived relationships (Hammersley, 1996; Jackson & Trochim, 2002). [. . .]

In education, they have been shown to be more effective in promoting knowledge retention than attending class lectures, reading, or participating in class discussion (Poole & Davis, 2006). Furthermore, concept maps can influence concentration and overall test performance, in part because they promote interaction and engagement between the student and material (Hall & O’Donnell, 1996). It has also been suggested that concept maps are an easier way to communicate one’s knowledge than text writing (Czuchry & Dansereau, 1996). [. . .]

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