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MirandaNet Fellowship Casestudy

Membership List | Publications | Research | Specialist Area List | Braided Learning Ejournal

From black boxes to glass boxes

the application of computerised concept mapping in schools

Robin Bevan

Year of posting: 2006


A summary report of project findings derived from Bevan (2007)

Computerised concept mapping allows students to represent their learning through adaptable diagrammatic structures on-screen. This project investigated how computerised concept mapping can be effectively deployed in student learning, in two secondary schools during 2003-6, with over 200 participants; and more specifically addressed to what extent the effectiveness of computerised concept mapping is enhanced by (a) peer collaboration, and (b) providing scoring feedback.

It was set in a context where the rapid pace of developments in computer technology has provided schools with extensive opportunities to exploit approaches to learning through ICT, but where this is rarely achieved. Research across a number of separate disciplines had recently been combined to provide teachers with increasing pedagogic knowledge. In this project theories concerning learning and the construction of knowledge have been used to inform the design and deployment of knowledge-mapper software.

The implementation of the main study allowed the use of computerised concept mapping to be examined in randomised control trials involving three experimental groups, and a control group. In one experimental group, the students used the knowledge-mapper individually. In the two other groups, the students worked collaboratively; but in only one of these groups was scoring feedback provided. The students' learning was measured and compared with an essay task.

The classes who used the software individually showed almost no gain, relative to the class who had no access to the software at all. In contrast the groups who were allowed to collaborate in creating their computerised concept maps both outperformed the other mapping groups by a significant margin, whether or not they received the automated scores.

It appeared that the knowledge-mapper had minimal effect on individual scores, but that it was effective in promoting constructive collaboration between students, which - in turn - enhanced their performance on the essay task. This finding does not appear to be dependent on the choice of software, which was CRESST, and would equally apply with other comparable computerised concept mapping tools, such as: Inspiration, Mind Matrix, and Smart Ideas. Further research may show different results if Kidspiration is used which is specifically designed for young learners.


Concept-mapping, collaboration, assessment, visual learning


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