After attending the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS) Annual Conference in October 2018, Carolyn DeLeo, professor, sonography, was inspired to bring mind mapping into her classroom. Below is Carolyn’s honest reflection of using mind mapping and an evaluation of the instructional strategy’s usefulness and success in her classroom.
By Carolyn DeLeo, Professor, Sonography
Mind mapping — also referred to as concept mapping — is a method that students can use to organize learning content into conceptual categories and create links between related material. I personally discovered the rich and effective use of mind mapping during a recent conference and have since better served my students by equipping them with mind mapping as a study and learning tool.
Once armed with the concept, I set about using mind mapping as an instructional strategy.
For example, I’ve employed mind mapping in a class on the sonography of ovarian pathology. I divided the class into three groups, and provided them with a blank presentation board, markers, sticky notes and a picture of the ovary. The image of the ovary symbolized our central topic. Their assignment was to create a mind map of the various ovarian pathologies that they will be tested on when they take their national credentialing board exams, as well as on their weekly quiz the following week.
To begin, as a class, we strategized on the various branches they could start off with and what type of information they might want to include. For example, did they want to group the pathologies by their sonographic appearances or by the categories of pathology based on their origins? Then, we discussed what they might want to include. This included choices about the definition of the pathologies, any significant clinical signs and symptoms, sonographic features or claim to fame. (A claim to fame is a unique trait about the pathology that sets it apart from the others.) The groups were then free to choose how they wanted to organize their mind map. The students spent the remainder of the class time creating their concept maps.
Overall, the students did a wonderful job of mapping key concepts and connecting related topics. Two of the groups divided the work up and came together to create the mind map on the board. The third group did each step together. They were unable to complete the mind map in the time allotted. At the end of class, students were able to view the other group’s boards. They were able to use their concept maps to study for the quiz scheduled for the following week.
Before their quiz, I asked them to complete a short survey regarding their experience with mind mapping. This is a summary of what I learned from the survey:
- Not all students like mind mapping. Less than 50% of my students said they liked the activity. One student began the project stating that she did not like concept maps, period. She had used it another class, and she had a bad experience. Several students also commented that the activity took too much time and wasn’t an effective use of class time, and others indicated that they have a preference already in how they organize the learning content, and mind mapping is not it for them.
- Some students, however, found the activity useful and developed a new study tool based on the activity. One student, for example, continued working on mind mapping after class and, before the weekend was over, she had created a mind map on the computer of her sonography of breast pathologies. She shared it with her classmates and used it to study for that week’s quiz. One student, who did enjoy the activity, stated, “Before we put the information together, we had to separate it into categories. That part was most helpful in understanding the information.” Another noted, “I felt like it helped me to choose the keys of each pathology in order to help myself differentiate between the pathologies and not blend them all together.” A fourth student said, “I liked mixing it up a little bit with doing something other than just a lecture.”
- Recommendations made by the students included: make it an assignment rather than classwork; it was too big of a topic, break it into smaller portions; and spend more time lecturing about mind mapping first.
In conclusion, there was a mixed student review on mind mapping, and the activity also failed to substantially effect students’ grades. After comparing quiz averages with the ovarian pathology quiz, I found no difference in the class average.
I feel that mind mapping is a valuable tool for students to organize learning content and make connections between key concepts. If it is a new tool to them, they may need more guidance and direction in making the first few mind maps.
When I use mind mapping in the future, I will structure it differently. After deciding on the central topic and its branches, I will break the class into groups and give each group a branch to map. After the students have completed their branch, I’ll bring them back together to share their branches with their classmates. As they share their branches, I’ll challenge them to see what connections they can find.