3 Concept Mapping Activities To Transform Your Classroom Culture

These methods will help you empower learners, celebrate diverse thinking, foster collaboration, and encourage creative risk-taking

6 minutes

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Learning the meaning of a piece of knowledge requires dialogue, exchange, sharing, and sometimes compromise.

Joseph D. Novak

Educators across the globe have used concept maps to accelerate academic growth and transform their students’ approach to learning. Take, for instance, principal Otto Silesky, who saw his high school students’ university entrance exam pass rate increase from 0 to 75 percent in just a few years after introducing them!

Concept mapping can foster a dynamic culture of learning

Are you eager to achieve the cognitive benefits of concept mapping in YOUR classroom?

Here are three low-lift, high-impact activities that you can introduce immediately:

1. Collective Concept Map Building

Concept map focus questions make for excellent discussion prompts.

This concept mapping activity helps drive student engagement and is great for practicing the Socratic Method of cooperative dialogue:


1. Craft a focus question and pose it to the class

2. Collaboratively brainstorm a list of related concepts

3. Have students systematically share their ideas of how the concepts are related and organized (higher on the map = more important, lower = less important)

4. Capture the emergent map on a whiteboard or projected from a concept mapping software tool. Learners can make their own maps in Sero!.


  • With this approach, you can start in pairs or small groups and then share whole class.
  • Increase student agency and make this activity more challenging by having the class come up with their own focus question. Or, increase scaffolding by offering a concept word bank and modeling discussion sentence-starters.

*TEACHER TIP: This activity is also a great formative assessment activity for gauging students’ knowledge strengths and weaknesses!

2. Active Studying With Concept Maps

Help students evolve their study habits beyond rote reading and memorization. 

This concept mapping exercise will challenge them to actively analyze, compare, and correct their own mental models, cultivating deeper learning and knowledge retention.


1. Print out copies of an exemplar concept map to distribute to students.

2. Assign students to practice recreating the exemplar (without looking) and then noting how their attempt compares.

3. Encourage students to use a green (or any color) marker to circle areas of their map where their knowledge matches up to the exemplar, and a different color to circle where it diverges.


  • Rather than have students to correct their own maps, direct them to trade with a partner and assess each other’s knowledge strengths, weaknesses, and originalities when compared to the exemplar map.

*TEACHER TIP: Post an exemplar map on an anchor chart at the rear of your classroom so students can look at it throughout the day. The frequent exposure will help them process and internalize the information.

3. Holistic Concept Map-Based Assessment

Knowledge and learning aren’t linear, so why do we assess them like they are?

Traditional tests treat knowledge as distinct and separate question items. In contrast, concept map-based assessments build on the theory of meaningful learning by conveying information as interconnected pieces of a bigger picture.

Concept mapping tasks stimulate metacognitive awareness and offer assessors deep insights into students’ processes of reasoning, making them ideal assessment tools.


1. Diagnostic – Gauge learners’ baseline understanding at the beginning of a unit by providing a set of concepts and linking phrases and having them assemble a map.

Sero’s advanced analytics can reveal insights across the entire group and at the individual learner level to help target instruction.

2. Formative – Facilitate individual or group concept mapping activities to pinpoint learners’ knowledge strengths and weaknesses. Sero’s instant feedback shows learners where they are misaligned to accelerate learning.

3. Summative – Reassign the diagnostic assessment at the end of a unit to monitor individual and group cognitive growth. Or mix up methods to create challenging exercises that accurately reveal understanding and persistent misconceptions.


  • There are lots of ways to scaffold concept map-based assessments to meet learners’ needs. The more content and structure a teacher provides, the more straightfoward it is to complete and grade.
    • Con: More scaffolding requires more up-front work for the teacher and limits diversity in how students can express their thinking.
  • On the other hand, teachers can reduce the up-front preparation on their end by allowing students to construct concept maps from scratch.
    • Con: This approach requires much more work to analyze and grade, as the content and organization of student maps can vary widely.

* TEACHER TIP: Sero! has built-in assessment types, along with automated authoring and reporting tools that make analyzing and providing feedback on learners’ concept maps fast and easy.


  • The immersive, collaborative, and dynamic nature of concept mapping can completely transform the culture of learning in a school or classroom
  • Concept mapping activities like those shared here can shift workloads off of teachers, providing learners with more agency over their learning and encouraging metacognitive self-assessment
  • Sero! provides automated authoring and analytic tools that can make concept map-based assessment more efficient and practical for consistent, large-scale use

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