Incorporating Concept Mapping in Project-Based Learning: Lessons from Watershed Investigations

Rye, James; Landenberger, Rick; Warner, Timothy
June 2013
Journal of Science Education & Technology;Jun2013, Vol. 22 Issue 3, p379
Academic Journal
The concept map tool set forth by Novak and colleagues is underutilized in education. A meta-analysis has encouraged teachers to make extensive use of concept mapping, and researchers have advocated computer-based concept mapping applications that exploit hyperlink technology. Through an NSF sponsored geosciences education grant, middle and secondary science teachers participated in professional development to apply computer-based concept mapping in project-based learning (PBL) units that investigated local watersheds. Participants attended a summer institute, engaged in a summer through spring online learning academy, and presented PBL units at a subsequent fall science teachers' convention. The majority of 17 teachers who attended the summer institute had previously used the concept mapping strategy with students and rated it highly. Of the 12 teachers who continued beyond summer, applications of concept mapping ranged from collaborative planning of PBL projects to building students' vocabulary to students producing maps related to the PBL driving question. Barriers to the adoption and use of concept mapping included technology access at the schools, lack of time for teachers to advance their technology skills, lack of student motivation to choose to learn, and student difficulty with linking terms. In addition to mitigating the aforementioned barriers, projects targeting teachers' use of technology tools may enhance adoption by recruiting teachers as partners from schools as well as a small number that already are proficient in the targeted technology and emphasizing the utility of the concept map as a planning tool.


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