Concept Maps for Improved Science Reasoning and Writing: Complexity Isn't Everything.
A pervasive notion in the literature is that complex concept maps reflect greater knowledge and/or more expert-like thinking than less complex concept maps. We show that concept maps used to structure scientific writing and clarify scientific reasoning do not adhere to this notion. In an undergraduate course for thesis writers, students use concept maps instead of traditional outlines to define the boundaries and scope of their research and to construct an argument for the significance of their research. Students generate maps at the beginning of the semester, revise after peer review, and revise once more at the end of the semester. Although some students revised their maps to make them more complex, a significant proportion of students simplified their maps. We found no correlation between increased complexity and improved scientific reasoning and writing skills, suggesting that sometimes students simplify their understanding as they develop more expert-like thinking. These results suggest that concept maps, when used as an intervention, can meet the varying needs of a diverse population of student writers.
Dowd, JE; Duncan, T; Reynolds, JA
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