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Making Thinking Visible: Using Concept Mapping for Planning and Teaching

Concept mapping is an activity or practice that can help both faculty and students realize what they do and do not understand. It is used to graphically identify the relationship of concepts and it can serve as a dynamic and engaging teaching tool, as well as a means to accomplish both formative and summative assessment. In addition, faculty might consider the use of concept mapping to identify the relationships of course elements and to guide course design, development or enhancement.

This workshop will start by introducing faculty to the theory and some examples of concept mapping and engage them in the creation of a basic concept map on paper or on a whiteboard. Once participants have basic understanding of the practice, we will look at how the use of a computer and the Internet, can enhance concept maps to include sub-maps, links to web sites, the incorporation of various media and the ability collaborate online with others in the development of a concept map.

Participants will be introduced to the computer programs Gliffy, Webspriation and a client called CMAP (some free or inexpensive tools) for the creation and/or collaborative development of concept maps.


By the end of this session you should be able to:

  • Create a simple concept map on paper or a white board, which connects at least 3 concepts and clearly identifies the relationship between them
  • Use concept mapping to assess prior knowledge
  • Use concept mapping for both formative and summative assessment
  • Create a simple electronic concept map which contains at least one link to a resource on the internet
  • Collaborate with at least one other person in the creation and editing of a simple online concept map
  • Identify at least 3 freely available mapping tools for use in their own practice

Session Overview


  • The Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How to Construct and Use Them, Novak, J. and Canas, A., accessed on August 3, 2010 at
  • IMHC CMAP Tools – A free software client, which may be downloaded to your computer for the local development of concept maps, or for sharing and collaboratively developing concept maps on a server. Information and software download available at
  • Gliffy – Online diagram software which may be used to create concept maps, make them available online and to collaborate in the development of concept maps. A limited version is available at no cost.
  • Use Webspiration to map out ideas, organize with outlines and collaborate online with teams or colleagues. Currently available in Public Beta version, with subscription available in Fall 2010 – see

For more information, contact Bud Deihl (804-828-4383 or wdeihl@vcu.edu).

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Last modified: June 20, 2013
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