Concept Mapping and Peirce's Semiotic Paradigm Meet in the Classroom Environment

Kankkunen, Markku
September 2001
Learning Environments Research;2001, Vol. 4 Issue 3, p287
Academic Journal
This article grapples with the problem of how to track a student's real progress in learning, which cannot be absolutely quantified at any given point as a result of a particular intervention. Results are presented for a long-term qualitative and quantitative classroom study, during which the method of concept mapping was applied and interpreted in light of the semiotic paradigm developed by Charles Sanders Peirce (1931–1958). Peirce's semiotic paradigm was thought to have sufficient intellectual rigour and flexibility to give new access to the multiplicity of processes at work in the learning environment. A natural learning environment was built over a four-year period in a Finnish primary school. The students, ranging in age from 9–12 years, were encouraged to use qualitative judgement (intuition, tacit knowledge) to give them greater intellectual access to the meanings of the concepts taught. The goal was to bring them to Vygotsky's stage of ‘conceptual learning’, and to evaluate the effectiveness of concept mapping as an ‘advance organiser’ used in conjunction with Peirce's semiotic paradigm. This article evaluates the success of concept mapping in constructing a conceptually-meaningful learning environment. The qualitative results – and certain quantitative evidence – show that concept mapping provided a means for students to discover tentative meanings for the concepts taught. In parallel, Peirce's semiotic paradigm provided a pragmatic framework for tracking the process of ‘updating meanings’ which is intrinsic to learning.


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