Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 9, Issue 1, Article 10 (Jun., 2008)
Ercan AKPINAR and Omer ERGIN
Fostering primary school students’ understanding of cells and other related concepts with interactive computer animation instruction accompanied by teacher and student-prepared concept maps

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Concept Map

Concept mapping is based on the constructivist model of learning (Nicoll, Francisco, & Nakhleh, 2001). Concept mapping has been used widely as a constructivist-learning model and it is more widely accepted in science education than in comparison to the past (Martin, Sexton, Wanger, & Gerlovich, 1998; Willerman & Harg, 1991). In the research done by Novak, who developed this tool, concept mapping has become a viable educational medium. Perhaps, most importantly, concept maps have been reported to be a potent instructional tool for promoting what Ausubel has described as meaningful learning (Horton et al., 1993). Concept maps were originally designed to help both teacher and students organize their own understanding of a subject, but they have been used in a variety of disciplines, employing different strategies and evaluation schemes (Nicoll, Francisco, & Nakhleh, 2001). These tools add a visual dimension to written text and provide a way for students to organize their thoughts. Concept maps can be used as a developmental tool to find out what the students think and how they relate one concept to another. Moreover, there are other ways in which teachers can use concept maps in science teaching (Sherman, 2000).

Concept mapping is an active learning tool with numerous applications in science education (Snead & Young, 2003; Nicoll, Francisco & Nakhleh, 2001; Ruiz-Primo, Schultz, Li & Shavelson, 2001; Francisco, Nicoll, & Trautmann, 1998; Ruiz-Primo & Shavelson, 1996; Willerman & Harg, 1991; Wallace & Wintzes, 1990; Cliburn, 1990; Arnaundin, Mintzes, Dunn, & Sbafer, 1984). For instance, Willerman & Harg (1991) studied the effect of concept maps as advance organizers for improving the science achievement of eighth-grade students. Eighty-two eighth-grade students in four science classes participated in their study. The experimental group completed the concept mapping at the beginning of the science unit under the teacher’s supervision. At the end of the two-week unit, a science test was administered to the experimental and the control group. The results of a one-tailed t-test indicated that there was a significant difference between the two groups. Wallace & Wintzes (1990) examined the concurrent validity of concept maps as vehicles for documenting and exploring conceptual change in biology. The subjects were randomly assigned to one of two application groups. The students in both groups were administered a multiple-choice/free-response inventory which assayed their knowledge of “Life Zones in the Ocean” before and after instruction (application). The students in the experimental group showed evidence of significant and substantial changes in the complexity and propositional structure of their knowledge base, as revealed by their concept maps. No changes were found in the control group. Besides, there are some studies that have used concept maps as alternative assessment devices (Nicoll, Francisco & Nakhleh, 2001; Ruiz-Primo, Schultz, Li & Shavelson, 2001; Ruiz-Primo & Shavelson, 1996)

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