Revisiting the use of concept maps in a large enrollment general chemistry course: implementation and assessment
In an effort to improve student conceptual understanding and help students better connect pre-existing knowledge to new ideas, a concept map assignment was implemented in a first-year college level general chemistry course. This implementation included a quasi-experiment that was carried out in discussion group recitation sections within a third-quarter general chemistry course. Students enrolled in a single section of the course were divided into two groups in which a concept map treatment was compared to a control group that completed short journal entries. Comparison of a concept inventory post-test using an independent samples t-test indicates students in the concept map treatment appear to perform better than the students in the journal control group (t = 2.34, mean difference = 0.844, p < 0.05). However, a multi-variable regression analysis in which the concept inventory post-test scores were compared between the treatment and control groups, while traits related to incoming academic preparation were held constant, suggests there was no significant difference in performance (unstandardized b = 0.222, p = 0.540). The quality of the students’ concept maps was also evaluated and correlated to student performance on the concept inventory, and it appears students who were better at concept mapping made greater gains in conceptual understanding (Pearson's r = 0.295, p < 0.05). When the relationship between the quality of concept mapping and concept inventory post-test was determined while holding constant covariates related to incoming academic preparation, the unstandardized B coefficient was positive, but was not significant at the p = 0.05 level (unstandardized b = 0.215, p = 0.134) This study does not provide unequivocal evidence that a concept map treatment leads to greater gains in conceptual understanding compared to a control population, or that students with better concept mapping skills performed better on the concept inventory instrument. Nevertheless, a template for implementing a concept map assignment in a large enrollment course is provided, and the results presented herein might prompt chemistry instructors to consider including concept map assignments in their instructional toolbox.