In the past, students have learned to take notes in linear form, whether copying them from the teacher or creating their own. This top down approach can be useful to some students, but is not as clear to other students and does not have as many possibilities as concept mapping provides.
Concept maps were oringinally developed by Dr. Joseph Novak. They are used as teaching tools, and have shown many positive results in the classroom. (Chau,1998). This visual approach has proven to be of great benefit to diverse student groups.
The outline on the left shows a traditional way of taking notes in a chemistry course. The concept map on the right demonstrates how these same ideas can be expressed in a less linear fashion, which allows for other connections to be made between ideas. (click on the individual images to see a larger view).
For the student, concept mapping gives new meaning to learning as they organize the acquired knowledge in their own way.(Willerman, 1991) They can link this new knowledge to the existing concepts they already have about science, or have learned in science thus far. Concepts in science do not exist in isolation. Each concept depends on its relationship to many others for meaning. A concept map depicts hierarchy and relatinships among concepts. Creating one requires the thinker to think in multiple directions and to switch back and forth between diferent levels of abstraction.