Concept Mapping, Mind Mapping and Argument Mapping:What are the Differences and Do They Matter?W. Martin DaviesThe University of Melbourne, [email protected]: In recent years, academics and educators have begun to use software mapping tools fora number of education-related purposes. Typically, the tools are used to help impart critical andanalytical skills to students, to enable students to see relationships between concepts, and also as amethod of assessment. The common feature of all these tools is the use of diagrammaticrelationships of various kinds in preference to written or verbal descriptions. Pictures andstructured diagrams are thought to be more comprehensible than just words, and a clearer way toillustrate understanding of complex topics. Variants of these tools are available under differentnames: “concept mapping”, “mind mapping” and “argument mapping”. Sometimes these termsare used synonymously. However, as this paper will demonstrate, there are clear differences ineach of these mapping tools. This paper offers an outline of the various types of tool available andtheir advantages and disadvantages. It argues that the choice of mapping tool largely depends onthe purpose or aim for which the tool is used and that the tools may well be converging to offereducators as yet unrealised and potentially complementary functions.Keywords: Concept mapping, mind mapping, computer-aided argument mapping, criticalthinking, argument, inference-making, knowledge mapping.1. INTRODUCTIONThe era of computer-aided mapping tools is well and truly here. In the past five to ten years, avariety of software packages have been developed that enable the visual display of information,concepts and relations between ideas. These mapping tools take a variety of names including:“concept mapping”, “mind mapping” or “argument mapping”. The potential of these tools foreducational purposes is only now starting to be realised.The idea of displaying complex information visually is, of course, quite old. Flow charts, forexample, were developed in 1972 (Nassi & Shneiderman, 1973) pie charts and other visual formatsgo back much earlier (Tufte, 1983). More recently, visual displays have been used to simplifycomplex philosophical issues (Horn, 1998). Formal ways of “mapping” complex information—asopposed to the earth’s surface, countries, cities and other destinations—began at least thirty yearsago.More recently, the use of information and computer technology has enabled information mapping tobe achieved with far greater ease. A plethora of software tools has been developed to meet variousinformation mapping needs. What do these tools do? What are their similarities and differences?What are their advantages and disadvantages? How precisely do they enhance teaching andlearning? This paper considers these questions and reviews three most commonly used mappingdevices. The paper claims that the type of information mapping tool to be used is largely a functionof the purpose for which it is intended. A clear understanding of the nature and distinctiveness of
these tools may offer educators as yet unrealised and potentially complementary functions to aidstudent learning.2. THE PURPOSE AND JUSTIFICATION FOR MAPPING TOOLSThe over-riding aim of all mapping tools is similar. If students can represent or manipulate acomplex set of relationships in a diagram, they are more likely to understand those relationships,remember them, and be able to analyse their component parts. This, in turn, promotes “deep” andnot “surface” approaches to learning (Biggs, 1987; Entwistle, 1981; Marton & Saljo, 1976a, 1976b;Ramsden, 1992). Secondly, maps are also much easier to follow than verbal or written descriptions(Larkin & Simon, 1987; Mayer & Gallini, 1990). Thirdly, maps utilise the often under-utilised partsof the brain associated with visual imagery. This enables more processing power to be used, henceleads to a greater capacity for learning. Finally, the work involved in map-making requires moreactive engagement on the part of the learner, and this too leads to greater learning (Twardy, 2004).There is empirical support for the use of mapping tools in enhancing, retaining and improvingknowledge. Evidence from the cognitive sciences shows that visual displays do enhance learning(Vekiri, 2002; Winn, 1991). Maps allow the separate encoding of information in memory in visualand well as propositional form, a phenomenon called “conjoint retention” or “dual coding”(Kulhavy, Lee, & Caterino, 1985; Paivio, 1971, 1983; Schwartz, 1988). In the former hypothesis,representations are encoded as separate intact units; in the latter, visual representations aresynchronously organised and processed simultaneously and verbal representations arehierarchically organised and serially processed (Vekiri, 2002). In a later section, I will return to theeducational justification of mapping tools and why they work in more detail.While the overriding objectives of mapping tools are similar, there are stark differences in theirapplication. The next section of this paper outlines each of the broad categories and reviews theiradvantages and disadvantages.3. THE MAPPING TOOLS3.1 Mind MappingMind mapping (or “idea” mapping) has been defined as ‘visual, non-linear representations of ideasand their relationships’ (Biktimirov & Nilson, 2006). Mind maps comprise a network of connectedand related concepts. However, in mind mapping, any idea can be connected to any other. Freeform, spontaneous thinking is required when creating a mind map, and the aim of mind mapping isto find creative associations between ideas. Thus, mind maps are principally association maps.Formal mind mapping techniques arguably began with Buzan (Buzan, 1974; Buzan & Buzan,2000). These techniques involved using line thicknesses, colours, pictures and diagrams to aidknowledge recollection. Buzan makes the following recommendations when mind mapping (Buzan& Buzan, 2000).188.8.131.52.5.Place an image or topic in the centre using at least 3 coloursUse images, symbols, codes, and dimensions throughout your Mind Map.Select key words and print using upper or lower case letters.Each word/image is alone and sitting on its own line.Connect the lines starting from the central image. The central lines are thicker, organic andflowing, becoming thinner as they radiate out from the centre.6. Make the lines the same length as the word/image.7. Use colours—your own code—throughout the Mind Map.2
8. Develop your own personal style of Mind Mapping.9. Use emphasis and show associations in your Mind Map.10. Keep the Mind Map clear by using radial hierarchy, numerical order or outlines to embraceyour branches.Concept maps, as we shall see, do not use such design flourishes. An example of a mind map on thetopic of mind mapping guidelines is given below ("Mind Map," 2007).Diagram 1: A Mind MapThe main use of mind mapping is to create an association of ideas. However, another use is formemory retention—even if the advantages in the case of mind mapping might be marginal (P.Farrand, F. Hussain, & E. Hennessy, 2002). It is easier to remember a diagram than to remember adescription. However, there have been suggestions that content is more central to learning thanformat (Pressley, Van Etten, Yokoi, Freebern, & VanMeter, 1998)Mind mapping has been used in a variety of disciplines, including Finance (Biktimirov & Nilson,2006), Economics (Nettleship, 1992), Marketing (Eriksson & Hauer, 2004), Executive Education(Mento, Martinelli, & Jones, 1999), Optometry (McClain, 1987) and Medicine (P. Farrand, F.Hussain, & E. Hennessy, 2002). It is also widely used in professions such as Fine Art and Design,Advertising and Public Relations.1The advantages of mind mapping include its “free-form” and unconstrained structure. There are nolimits on the number of ideas and links that can be made, and there is no necessity to retain an idealstructure or format. Mind mapping thus promotes creative thinking, and encourages“brainstorming”. A disadvantage of mind mapping is that the types of links being made may belimited to simple associations. Absence of clear links between ideas is also a constraint. Mind1A list of mind mapping software is available ("List of Mind Mapping Software," 2008) and ("Software for Mindmapping and Information Storage," 2008).3
mapping is limited in dealing with more complex relationships. For example, mind mapping mightbe useful to brainstorm the things that need to be packed prior to a holiday, or the major issues acompany needs to focus on in the forthcoming financial year, however, it is hard to see it being asuseful for something more complex, e.g., the causes and effects of the Asian currency crisis. Morecomplex topics require more than an associational tool, they require relational analysis. The tool ofconcept mapping has been developed to address these limitations of mind mapping.3.2 Concept MappingConcept mapping is often confused with mind mapping (Ahlberg, 1993, 2004; Slotte & Lonka,1999). However, unlike mind mapping, concept mapping is more structured, and less pictorial innature. The aim of concept mapping is not to generate spontaneous associative elements but tooutline relationships between ideas. Thus, concept mapping is a relational device. A concept maphas a hierarchical “tree” structure with super-ordinate and subordinate parts (primary, secondaryand tertiary ideas). The map normally begins with a word or concept or phrase which represents afocus question that requires an answer (Novak & Canas, 2006). Cross-links are used to showrelationships between concepts represented. Examples are added to terminal concepts as instancesbut these are not enclosed in boxes or circles as they are not concepts but represent instances of aconcept. An example of a concept map is given below on the focus question: What is the purpose ofconcept mapping? ("Concept Map ", 2007).Diagram 2: Novakian Concept map using the software CMap (http://cmap.ihmc.us/conceptmap.html)The difference between mind mapping and concept mapping is also at the level of precision andformality. Mind maps are less formal and structured. Concept maps are formal and tightlystructured. Mind maps emphasise diagrams and pictures to aid recall of associations; concept mapsuse hierarchical structure and relational phrases to aid understanding of relationships. A somewhatdifferent, and less hierarchical, style of concept map on the influence of labour market on theeconomy is given below:4
Diagram 3: Non-linear concept map on labour market economicsThe development of concept mapping has been attributed to the work of Novak as early as 1972 andhis work on children’s developing knowledge of science concepts (Novak & Canas, 2006). Thiswork, in turn, was inspired by the work of learning psychologist Ausubel (Ausubel, 1963). Themapping technique was refined further (Novak, 1981) and then extended to the educational context(Novak & Gowin, 1984). The resulting diagrams are sometimes known as “Novakian maps” inhonour of their founder.Recent additions to the Novakian format include attempts to capture “cyclical” relationshipsrepresenting complex natural and social systems (Safayeni, Derbentseva, & Canas, 2005).Technology has aided the popularity of concept mapping by means of dedicated software tools suchas CMap Tools (Canas, Hill, Carff, Suri, Lott, & Eskridge, 2004) and Compendium.2 Such is theinterest in concept mapping, an annual international conference began in 2005.Similar to mind mapping, there are several stages in developing a Novakian concept map. However,the stages are very different:1. Develop a declarative-type focus question (e.g., “What is inflation?”)2. Devise a “parking lot” of concepts and ideas that are related to the concept of inflation, andthe question to be answered. The purpose of this stage is brainstorming. The resulting2Cmap Tools is available free from the Institute of Human and Machine Cognition (http://www.ihmc.us). Compendiumis available from the Open University (http://www.labspace.open.ac.uk). A list of concept mapping software isavailable here ("List of Concept Mapping Software," 2008).5
184.108.40.206.concepts may or may not be used in the final map (Novak & Canas, 2006). The concepts areplaced in circles or boxes to designate them as concepts.Put concepts in hierarchical order of importance in a provisional map. An “expert skeletonmap” can be started by an instructor in a class to scaffold the learning process, aid studentparticipation and give students confidence. Students can complete the map themselves withthe focus question and concepts provided.Link lines are then provided between the hierarchical concepts from top to bottom. Theconventions for this have changed over the decades since the inception of concept mapping.Arrows were originally only used when it is necessary to link a lower concept with a higherconcept. However, this convention has recently been revised by concept mappers to allowfor arrows for all directions on a concept map (Ahlberg, 2004)Devise suitable cross-links for key concepts in the map. Verbs andprepositions/prepositional phrases are used most frequently, for example: “requires”, “towork with”, “will lead to”, “involves”, “during”, “of”, “through”, and so on. The aim is toshow the relationship between the key concepts and their subordinate or super-ordinateelements.Add examples to the terminal points of a map representing the concepts. These are notenclosed in boxes or circles to delineate them as instances of a concept.Since its inception as a formal technique, concept mapping has been widely used in academicdisciplines, for example, Accounting (Chei-Chang, 2008; Irvine, Cooper, & Jones, 2005; Leauby &Brazina, 1998; Maas & Leauby, 2005; Simon, 2007; van der Laan & Dean, 2007 forthcoming),Finance (Biktimirov & Nilson, 2003), Engineering (Walker & King, 2002), Statistics (Schau &Mattern, 1997), Reading Comprehension (Mealy & Nist, 1989), Biology (Kinchin, 2000), Nursing(Baugh & Mellott, 1998; King & Shell, 2002; Schuster, 2000; Wilkes, Cooper, Lewin, & Batts,1999), Medicine (Hoffman, Trott, & Neely, 2002; McGaghie, McCrimmon, Mitchell, Thompson, &Ravitch, 2000; West, Pomeroy, & Park, 2000) and Veterinary Science (Edmonson, 1993)Research has also been done on concept mapping as an assessment tool (Gouveia & Valadares,2004; Jonassen, Reeves, Hong, Harvey, & Peters, 1997; van der Laan & Dean, 2007 forthcoming)and as a way to assist academics in course design (Amundsen, Weston, & McAlpine, 2008). Severalempirical studies have ascertained the validity of the use of concept maps (Markham, Mintzes, &Jones, 1994; Ruiz-Primo & Shavelson, 1996).The main advantage of concept mapping is precisely its relational aim. As outlined above, conceptmaps enable relational links to be made between relevant concepts. In the educational context, it isclaimed that meaningful learning best takes place by linking new concepts to exis
concept mapping has been developed to address these limitations of mind mapping. 3.2 Concept Mapping Concept mapping is often confused with mind mapping (Ahlberg, 1993, 2004; Slotte & Lonka, 1999). However, unlike mind mapping, concept mapping is more structured, and less pictorial in nature.