Concept Mapping and Problem Based Learning
One of the primary objectives in education is the transmission of information from the educators to the learners. Part of the knowledge transmitted from educators to learners may be skills related to specific tasks and knowledge pertaining to particular subject matters. The application of the skills transmitted may be varied and is dependent on the collaboration between the educators and the learners in most cases. This implies that strategies that encourage collaborative learning must be put in place to enhance knowledge dissemination both in terms of skills transfer and in terms of subject education. In most of the cases, knowledge dissemination is based on a build -up of key concepts which are often interrelated and whose comprehension makes it possible to understand the succeeding concepts in education. The development of concept maps has been used widely over the years to enable collaborative build up of concepts that enhance knowledge dissemination.
Although computers have been used before to develop concept maps and thus improve understanding of underlying facts, their use has been limited to the perceptible benefits associated with them. For instance, most educators may apply the computer use in concept map development based on the argument that they make the work much easier in comparison to doing it through conventional and more traditional methods. Similarly, the use of computer games in the development of cognitive skills has also been in existence for some time now based on the ease with which the purpose of education is achieved through the use of computers (Royle & Colfer, 2010). A combination of computer based concept development and problem based learning has however not been implemented before despite the potential for greater enhancement of the learning process through this method. The proposal to incorporate computer based concept mapping into problem based learning can be very effective towards the achievement of educational objectives. The idea is to apply the aspect of problem based learning in a concept map guided approach. The aim of the project would be to enhance understanding of new concepts based on the problem developed from previously learnt concepts. The idea is to apply the theoretical models of pedagogical education relating to moving from the known to the unknown.
Concept mapping is an essential part of education in contemporary times. While being relatively complex, the idea results in a better understanding of new concepts. The idea is to be able to generate problematic hypotheses from the already developed concept maps. The hypotheses can then act as the genesis of the problems for problem based learning. This enables the collaboration between the educators and the students to be achieved in that the concept maps will not be visible only to the educated but rather to the recipients of knowledge as well. The role of the computers in this activity would be to generate relationships between various concepts hence making it possible to make deductions and inductions from the existing concepts. The deductions then generate new issues that can be addressed through problem based learning. An example is the application of computer games for the enhancement of cognitive skills relating to spelling or even to completion of science projects. The connection between the concept mapping aspect of the application and the problem based learning is that the former forms the basis of the latter.
Theoretical Back ground
Learning centered on concept maps has been used in contemporary times in a variety of classroom set-ups. The theory behind concept mapping is that it enables connections to be made between the available resources, the past knowledge gained and the knowledge intended to be passed. The link between resources and knowledge dissemination stages enables the available resources to be allocated reasonably (Novak & Canas, 2006). The process begins with the identification of problems pertaining to particular domains. This involves recognition of learning needs and stages that have been achieved in the learning process. Following the problem identification process, the key concepts related to the questions in context are then listed and awarded priority points. This implies that the concepts are rated from the most basic to the most complex. The rationale behind this is to enable the creation of links which make the learning process easier. Although this process does not depend on collaboration between the educators and the learners in most cases, it enables the educators to understand the needs of the learners and thus allocate resources such that each of the identified needs can be met.
After the identification of problems and listing of the various concepts, the development of the concept maps can then begin. This involves the creation of links between various concepts either in the same domain or in different domains (Novak & Canas, 2006). It is the objective of this stage to create links between concepts. In the learning process, it is imperative to find connected concepts regardless of the domain in which each concept belongs. The links between the concepts can then be used to determine areas of problem learning in the education process. The benefits of using concept maps in the learning process cannot be ignored in terms of additions to the learning process.
Concept maps are important tools for cognitive visualization especially in writing. The application of concept maps has gained wide use due to the associated benefits which surpass age and class. For instance, while concept mapping is used by early childhood educators to form the basis for their classes and to help develop in the theoretical knowledge dissemination, students at higher levels of learning such as universities apply concept mapping for the enhancement of stronger writing skills (Villalon & Calvo, 2011). The implication is that concept mapping can be used at all stages of learning and for a variety of outcomes. While the main objective of concept mapping is to develop cognitive capabilities associated with various activities, other benefits include the ability to develop meaningful propositions in the learning process.
This capability is also associated with automatic concept mapping which can be achieved through the use of computers in the mapping process. The strengths of automatic concept mapping include versatility, simplicity and subjectivity (Villalon & Calvo, 2011). These advantages make automatic concept mapping an essential tool in the education process since it can be put to various utilities. The implication is that with the incorporation of the automatic concept mapping process into the learning process, understanding of various aspects of learning can be achieved to a higher degree. Moreover, the versatile applications for concept mapping in the education process make it a valuable tool for enhancement of the effectiveness of the process. This means that the idea can be used in a wide range of applications that can aid in the enhancement of education effectiveness. Understanding the process is key to the effectiveness of its application.
Problem Based Learning
Problem based learning has been applied for ages in pedagogical education. The objective of using Problem Based Learning in education is to enable the learners to derive knowledge through the provision of a solution to an existing problem. In the education of young children, problem based learning initiates the formulation of new ideas and the potential for the development of better problem solving capabilities (Timcenko & Stojic, 2012). Problems that often present in the learning process are of a diverse nature but can all be addressed through the use of problem based learning approaches. The solution of problems relating to the learning process such as decision making problems, design problems, dilemmas and diagnosis solution problems all can be effectively addressed through the application of problem based learning (Jonassen et al., 2003).
Various techniques are often applied in the use of problem based learning such as the formulation of study questions and requiring the learners to find solutions to the questions. This makes PBL a very effective form of learning when collaboration between the learners and the educators is desired. This means that with every problem that arises, the students are expected to work in collaboration with the educator towards attaining the study objectives. The benefits associated with problem based learning are immense and cover not only cognitive aspects of the learning process but also several other concepts.
First, PBL enables learners to develop awareness of their surroundings. This is through the enhancement of exploratory approach to their learning. This approach enables the development of an active listening which helps the students to engage themselves in the learning process (Newman, 2005). This makes the students more capable of identifying the expected learning outcomes from the educator’s discourse and also helps the students in the identification of potential problems that require solutions. This simply means that it is possible for the PBL process to be self sustaining in that through the solution of one problem and the parallel learning process, the learners get to identify other problems that require solution and which also contrib.ute to the learning process.
The ability to identify and solve new problems contributes to the continued practice of problem solving which enables the learners to sharpen their problem solving skills (Timcenko & calvo, 2012). The development of greater problem solving skills only means greater learning outcomes. It is on this basis that PBL is preferred as a favorable teaching method, especially for young children who require developing problem solving skills. Moreover, the engagement in PBL makes the learners to be occupied in their minds hence enhancing their abilities to manage stress effectively. While the benefits associated with PBL are immense, these benefits cannot be enjoyed without collaboration between the learners and the educators.
The fact that PBL requires collaboration implies that it can also aid in the development of collaboration capabilities between learners within the same learning group as well as between the learners and their educators. This makes it an even better method of learning for all ages.
The computer has been defined as a mind tool for the development of cognitive skills among learners (Jonassen et al., 1998). In this proposed application, the computer is used for the development of concept maps. The concept maps can be developed for any learning subject but in this proposal, they will be used for knowledge development in science subjects. An example would be in biological sciences where the relationship between various concepts is very inherent. The role of the computer is to develop automatic concept maps which can be used to predict problems in the related concepts. The learning process is to take placed based on a PBL approach hence the need for clarity in problem identification. Since concept mapping enables the creation of links between concepts, tackling one concept can help the learners and the educators to develop the foundation for problems that would arise in the succeeding concepts.
The application of the concept maps is based on the premise that through frequent revision of the concept maps enables all aspects of the study subject to be included in the map hence advancing the capacity for understanding the concept. The rationale is that the educators cannot engage in the intensive exercise of creating the links between the various concepts in the study subject. The use of the computers enables both the educators and the earners to collaborate in the process hence providing guidance on where there is need to fill information gaps. The role of the educator in this context is to initiate brainstorming sessions based on the automatically generated concept maps to encourage the identification of learning problems and thus initiate the use of PBL for educative purposes. The link between the known presented in the concept maps and the unknown makes it possible for the problems to be generated and thus applied in the learning process.
The PBL process can even be more effective in this context in case the computers are used again in the generation of potential solutions to existing problems. The educators can guide the learners through evaluation of the generated problems and the related solutions and to determine the relevance of the problem solutions to the learning process. The evaluation process takes into consideration factors such as the level of new information attained by the learners and the degree of participation in the learning process. The skills gained during the process can also be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the process. In generation of the concept related problems, computers used can also guide in the generation of education related questions whose answers are predetermined based on the information provided for the generation of the concept maps. This process is made even more effective by the use of flashing cards.
To enhance the effectiveness of the process, the educators may use hard copy flashing cards to help the learners to develop problem solving skills as well as their active listening skills. Besides this, to enhance collaboration between the learners and the educators, the computer itself may also be used to generate flashing messages, questions, and information with the aim of developing better active listening skills. The educator plays the role of the facilitator in that while the computer screen flashes the messages or questions, the educator guides the students through expounding on the questions, calling for answers or responses to the questions displayed by the screen. Also, the learners can collaborate in the application of this process through group work and effective team contribution for the achievement of educational objectives.
The aspects of concept mapping and problem based learning are two concepts which are rarely linked together based on their varying applications. However, it has been established that the learning process can be improved even more through the application of both concepts in the learning process. This has been the motivation behind the project in that with the development of computers, the idea of concept mapping has been made even more effective through automation. The project thus proposes that the two concepts be brought together to enhance both collaboration and learning outcomes in the education process. For this to be achieved successfully there is need for the theoretical background to the use of both concept mapping and PBL be highlighted and expounded upon. The implementation of this proposal is aimed at bringing together the benefits associated with the use of PBL and concept mapping in the learning process and thus enhancing the effectiveness of the education process.
The benefits that have been identified as being associated with concept mapping include improvement of writing capabilities. Similarly, PBL has been identified as being effective for the development of greater cognitive skills, enhancement of problem solving skills and enhancement of collaboration. The application of the proposed method of education leads inadvertently to greater collaboration between educators and their learners as well as between the learners themselves through group work. This proposal should therefore be considered for the enhancement of the education process effectiveness. Since both concept mapping and PBL are tested and confirmed approaches to education, their combination must also be very beneficial to the education sector.
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