Mark Williams is Head of Physical Education at Stamford American International School in Singapore. He has been using Mind Maps in education for the past two years; here he explains how he and his department use the technique, from curriculum planning to the assessment process.
“When I initially started looking into the use of Mind Maps within my department and my own teaching, I was unsure about how they could aid the curriculum planning process, and how they could be used to show that students were building on their existing knowledge. This led me to look at the use of Mind Maps in two different ways.”
In both my current and previous schools, the planning process has always started with a ‘brainstorming’ session on a whiteboard. We would add everything we knew about the unit we were going to cover, and then highlight key concepts that would provide a vehicle for inquiry, and related concepts that would provide depth and detail. We would then develop our concepts, lines of inquiry and statements of enduring understanding, which relate and connect concepts.
This process has essentially remained the same, but recently we have implemented task management tool, DropTask, into our planning phase. Using DropTask, we are able to group all of our ideas together and for each grade level, prioritize what topics need to be covered in relation to our scope, sequence and planning documentation, and differentiate between the grade levels.
This Mind Map highlights the key areas that we wanted to cover for sport and health-related fitness across the grade levels. With this being a new unit in our school, we could then decide what areas we would add or take away at other grade levels. From here, we could begin to explore and develop our significant concept that would drive the inquiry process and unit questions.
The second, and probably the most exciting way I have used Mind Maps, is for formative assessment. In our school system, statements of enduring understandings are usually written collaboratively by teachers, and presented to the students at the start of a unit for them to ‘unpack’ and develop an understanding of. This process, although beneficial to the students, can potentially stop students from developing their own ideas about an inquiry, as it has been pre-designed for them.
Using Mind Maps has allowed students to develop their own knowledge, without any preconceived ideas of where the inquiry should lead. Rather than limiting their thinking to one notion, in a Mind Map, they are free to explore different paths and ideas. Mind Maps allow them to use teacher questions to explore concepts and to pick out the information that they need in order to develop deeper understandings that will enable them to create their own statements at the end of the unit.
Developing Mind Maps and keeping to one word per branch helps students to focus on, and develop branches that deepen their understanding through imagination, organization and critical thinking. As a department, the planning process is becoming more efficient and meetings more focused. We also have the freedom to share the Mind Maps and add to them as our units develop which has obvious advantages during the reflection process.
Mind Maps are amazing visual tools that students can watch grow and build on each lesson. They allow students to organize their ideas and understand concepts more effectively. Through the teacher asking questions that deepen students’ factual and conceptual understandings, students are able to add to their knowledge base and develop a never-ending Mind Map of their learning journey. Mind Maps allow them to develop key concepts and create related concept branches until all their ideas become connected, reflecting their deeper understanding.
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