Mind Mapping

Graphical Representation (often referred to as Mind Mapping or Concept Mapping) is a tactile learning tool gaining popularity in the training industry, especially in the academic community. The act of representing your own knowledge in creative, meaningful ways is a cornerstone of Constructivist pedagogy. It allows you to engage with the material at hand, link the material to your own historical experience, and asses your current understanding of the subject. This personal assessment is also important to a student’s Metacognition: their knowledge of their own learning process.

Graphical Representation is also a key feature of Active Learning. It can be considered a form of meaningful note taking, and encourages student-centered exploration of the relationship between pieces of knowledge and the student’s own experience. In turn, this act of relationship building can improve critical thinking skills and increase learner-initiated inquiry.

What is Mind Mapping?

Mind Mapping is the graphical depiction of knowledge objects (we’ll call them nodes) and the relationships between those nodes. More importantly, the emphasis is on the relationships between learning objects, topics, subjects, experiences, and other artifacts that may be meaningful to each individual learner.

As well as being an effective tool for analyzing concepts, it is also a popular method of brainstorming. With a Mind Map, learners can organize ideas hierarchically to establish concept dominance and organize ideas radially to establish non-hierarchical relationships. The combination of these visual organization tactics encourages learners to think outside the box, and connect ideas in ways they may not have thought of using traditional instructional methods.

As an Instructional Designer, I am interested in a learner’s preconceptions (and often misconceptions) and whether or not those preconceptions have changed over the course of the instruction. Mind Maps used as a pre/post assessment and more informal formative assessments can give me an idea about how a learner is progressing. Are the relationships between nodes depicted differently at the end of instruction. Based on the pre-assessment, are there any common misconceptions that need to be corrected?

Great, so what does Mind Mapping look like?

Flipped Classroom Professional Development
An example of a mind map of a Professional Development program for Flipped Learning

The beauty of Mind Mapping is that it is a learner-driven activity. All learners have different thought process and different conceptions of the world around them, so everyone’s Mind Map is going to be unique, both in style and in content. It allows for flexibility and creativity in the learning process.*

Our own fellow blogger, Stephen Montague, likes to relate Constructivism to a spider’s web. As the spider makes more and more connections in their own web, the web grows larger and more robust. As a learner identifies relationships between learning objects and experiences, their own web of knowledge grows. I like to think of Mind Mapping as the visual representation of this process.

Where do I start?

Many instructors and instructional designers prefer to have their learners create Mind Maps with pen and paper, or collaboratively on a white board. Many believe the tactile nature of the activity leads to greater creativity and better retention. Others prefer computer programs that allow students to concentrate more on the contextual relationships than their own creativity. What we all agree on, though, is that the act of Mind Mapping is more beneficial than not Mind Mapping at all, regardless of medium.

If you want to check out some computer-based Mind Mapping applications here is a quick list of options:

Most applications have similar functionality, with a few quirks here and there. In the spirit of Constructivism, I often leave it up to my learners to decide how to engage in Mind Mapping, allowing them to focus on their own Metacognition.

For more free resources, check out:



*Side note: since individuals will tackle Mind Mapping in unique ways, peer:peer evaluation of Mind Maps may also be an effective learning activity!

Kegan Remington, an Instructional Designer from NAU, specializes in Active Learning Pedagogy and the development of dynamic, collaborative, technology-enhanced learning environments. With a decade of experience in education, Kegan’s career is focused on developing high-fidelity learning materials, integrative learning environments, and promoting effective instructional techniques for the 21st century learner.

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