UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS: New Professor's Research on Concept Mapping Published in Top-Tier Journal

Source: University of Arkansas
Source: University of Arkansas

University of Arkansas issued the following announcement on April 13.

Kevin Roessger teaches in the adult and lifelong learning program at the University of Arkansas so his research probes the effectiveness of ways to teach adults. He recently published an article in the journal Learning and Instruction that examined the teaching of a method called concept mapping.

The European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction publishes the journal. It is the fourth-ranked educational research journal in the world by impact factor.

The article explained that, to make a concept map, a student writes the name of concepts in circles or squares that are linked with lines, which are then labeled to describe the relationship between the two concepts. Concepts can be both incorporated beneath broader concepts, creating a hierarchy of knowledge, and further divided into increasingly detailed and specific components. The purpose of this visual tool for teaching, learning and assessment is to relate students' existing knowledge to new concepts for a deeper understanding than they may get using other techniques.

Other research has found concept maps to be effective ways of learning but little research has examined the best way to teach the use of concept mapping. Roessger is an assistant professor in the College of Education and health Professions who joined the faculty in the fall of 2016. The article titled "Effects of Teaching Concept Mapping Using Practice, Feedback and Relational Framing" is co-authored by Barbara Daley and Duaa Hafez, both of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where Roessger earned a doctorate. The three will present research from the study at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association this weekend in New York.

Roessger and his colleagues asked whether concept mapping could be improved through practice, feedback, and knowledge of a behavior called relational framing. Relational framing is the act of relating things in different ways. According to Roessger, it is the foundation of human language and higher order thinking.

The researchers randomly assigned students in four online graduate courses at their two universities to one of two teaching conditions: a traditional concept map teaching strategy or a relational framing teaching strategy. Traditional ways of teaching concept mapping ignore the act of relating and the ways it is expressed in students' knowledge construction. The approach pioneered by Roessger and his colleagues addressed this by teaching students a variety of relational frames and showing them how they can be applied in concept maps.

They found that repeated practice and feedback improved the structural quality of students' concept maps, as well as the number of references to personal experiences in their maps. Teaching students about relational framing also improved the quality of the relationships students made between concepts in their map. This is thought to lead to deeper and richer understanding of course material and new insights into how it can be applied outside the classroom.

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