Using Concept Maps and Other Visualization Tools

In this module, faculty learn how to use concept maps and a variety of visualization tools to assist students in understanding complex concepts, principles, and ideas and the important relationships between them.

To satisfy the module requirements, practicing faculty must apply at least one technique, such as using a flowchart during a class session, asking students to use visual tools to answer questions, or teaching students to use concept maps to prepare for exams.

This module is one of five modules under ACUE’s unit on Promoting Higher Order Thinking.

Advising Subject Matter Experts

Derek Bruff
Director, Center for Teaching
Vanderbilt University

Todd Zakrajsek
Associate Professor, Family Medicine
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Module References

Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bruff, D. (2013, November 1). Show and tell: More visual presentations [Prezi slides]. Retrieved from

Bruff, D. (2015, March 16). Mapping a discussion with clickable image polls [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Carnegie Mellon University, Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation. (n.d.). Using concept maps. Retrieved from

Newbury, P. (2010, August). Concept mapping in Astro 101. Paper presented at Cosmos in the Classroom, Boulder, CO. Abstract retrieved from

Nilson, L. B. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Novak, J. D., & Cañas, A. J. (2008). The theory underlying concept maps and how to construct and use them. Retrieved from

Ortega, R. A., & Brame, C. J. (2015). The synthesis map is a multidimensional educational tool that provides insight into students’ mental models and promotes students’ synthetic knowledge generation. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 14(2).

Wandersee, J. H. (2002). Using concept circle diagramming as a knowledge mapping tool. In K. M. Fisher, J. H. Wandersee, & D. E. Moody (Eds.), Science & Technology Education Library Series: Vol. 11. Mapping biology knowledge (pp. 109–126). New York, NY: Kluwer Academic.