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Concept Maps In The Mechanical Engineering Curriculum

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.118.1 - 1.118.7



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Phillip J. Cornwell

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

I Session 2266

Concept Maps in the Mechanical Engineering Curriculum

Phillip J. Cornwell Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

In this paper concept maps, a pedagogical tool which improves the effectiveness of lectures and helps students achieve a higher level of understanding, will be discussed. Concept maps are a visual representation of ideas designed to illustrate the relationships between the ideas. There are a variety of ways concept maps can be used in the mechanical engineering curriculum. They can be used to help students understand the structure of the curriculum, the relationship between courses, and the material within a course. The reaction of students to the use of concept maps has been enthusiastically positive.


The process for obtaining higher levels of learning is the same for any discipline 1. The phases of a learning hierarchy are shown in Figure 1. A student must first learn the terminology and facts which make up the basic language of a discipline. After learning the facts and terminology the student is able to combine them to understand concepts. The more concepts a student possesses, the easier it is to form generalizations and to apply the concepts to a wide variety of problems. The lecture is one of the primary vehicles for information transmission in higher education today and is used by educators to help students in their journey through the learning hierarchy. However, for most students the basic lecture, when used exclusively, is not the most effective technique to facilitate optimum student learning and to help students understand complex and subtle interrelationships. For this reason, lectures must be supplemented with the textbook, homework, projects, group work, etc. Recently there has been a school of thought that emphasizes cooperative learning to the point of eliminating lectures completely. I believe that this is a mistake. Even though lectures have limitations, they remain an important tool to help professors facilitate student learning, especially if they can be made more 1 effective. One method to improve the effectiveness of lectures is the use of visuals . In this paper the visual pedagogical tool called the concept map will be discussed.

Concept maps are a visual aid to help students organize and understand groups of ideas or concepts. Creating an effective concept map requires experience and a depth of understanding that is typically beyond the level a student achieves by the end of a course, typically the “synthesis” or “appreciation” level in Bloom’s 2 taxonomy of the cognitive domam .For this reason it is important for professors to provide concept maps for “ the students. There are many different ways concept maps can be used. Although all of the examples of concept maps in this paper will be from the mechanical engineering curriculum, the ideas are equally applicable to other fields. The use of concept maps to help students understand the structure of the curriculum and the relationships between sequences of courses, and to help students understand and assimilate the material in a single course will be discussed.

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Cornwell, P. J. (1996, June), Concept Maps In The Mechanical Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--5933

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