Lecture supplements: Student concept mapping

Lecture Supplements: Student Concept Mapping

It’s a good idea to break up lectures with activities that encourage learner engagement with lecture material. Concept mapping activities can be particularly effective when trying to teach complex topics, procedures, or processes as they encourage synthesis of the material and creative thinking. Additionally, learners practice core competencies such as critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork and collaboration.  

Difficulty: 2/5





Core Competency Connection

Sketch of two bees on a yellow gradient background
Sketch of three wolves on a grey gradient background
Sketch of a raven on a blue gradient background

The Process

1. Introducing the Topic

Provide a short lecture on a complex topic, procedure, or process (1015 minutes). It’s recommended that you have learners review the material prior to the lecture (e.g., chapter reading, video, short pre-assessment to gauge their current knowledge), but not required. 

2. Understanding

Break learners into small groups (24 people) and ask them to draw a diagram that conveys their understanding of the complex topic, procedure, or process. The amount of time you allow for this activity depends on the complexity of concept and the depth required. Ten to 15 minutes is an average amount of time. 

3. Present

Have each group nominate a presenter who will share their concept map with the class. Encourage them to share areas they are still having trouble grasping and allow their fellow learners to provide potential solutions before providing them yourself. 

4. Review

Close the lecture by summarizing, in general, the strengths of the learner models (i.e., what the class seemed to understand best) and where there tended to be confusion. Review the correct model with emphasis on the areas of confusion and suggest remedial resources for homework for those who are still having trouble. 

Tips & Tricks

Consider providing blank examples of flow charts, brainstorm webs and/or graphics to spark ideas. This will build confidence in learners who have not completed activities like this before 

 To complete this activity in an online lecture,  

  •  consider using a free online mapping tool or whiteboard that allows you to invite guests to a blank page to edit using a link. This will make it easy for learners to log in and get to work with minimal barriers. A good example is miro.com  
  •  move groups into breakout rooms so they can discuss with one another without distraction from other groups. 


Barkley, Elizabeth. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. Jossey-Bass. 

CTLI Staff

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