Concept Maps and Nursing Theory
Faculty seek to teach nursing students how to link clinical and theoretical knowledge with the intent of improving patient outcomes. The author discusses an innovative 9-week concept mapping activity as a pedagogical approach to teach nursing theory in a graduate theory course. Weekly concept map building increased student engagement and fostered theoretical thinking. Unexpectedly, this activity also benefited students through group work and its ability to enhance theory-practice knowledge.
... tice knowledge. Teaching nursing theory is a challenge because of the abstractness of the content,1 traditional approaches used to teach it, and the students' perception of its detachment from practice.2 Students often fail to understand what theory is or why it is important. Getting students to think theoretically and appreciate theory's usefulness in practice has been a charge of nursing faculty for decades,3 and concept maps can be one creative way to teach nursing theory.4 Concept Maps The seminal work of Novak and Gowin 5 in the book, Learning How to Learn, began 3 decades of research on concept maps. A map is based on the meaningful relationship between concepts, which then form propositions. Concept maps are visual road maps that highlight the meanings of these relationships.5 Maps allow the visual representation of a student's knowledge about a certain topic 4 and are either graphic or pictorial depictions.6 These depictions include the antecedents, consequences, and attributes of the main concept.7 Four main types of concept maps include spider maps (central concept with radiating subthemes), hierarchy maps, flowchart maps (linear format), and system maps (linear format with addition of inputs and outputs).6 Concept maps provide a good learning strategy for students because they link newer concepts within broader known concepts.8 As an educational tool, maps provide students with a way in which to communicate their understanding of complex concepts on a single piece of paper and, in turn, allow faculty to evaluate student progress in learning theory, including highlighting areas for expanding knowledge.4 Concept maps assist students in learning how to learn,5,9 encourage them to think independently, and improve their confidence in applying what they know to the clinical setting.10