Sunday, March 22, 2009

Conceptual Maps: Helping your residents learn

By Dr Eduardo Mayorga

Have you ever given a lecture to your residents, come back the next day, ask some questions about it, and find out they remember very few things?
It not only happens to me as a teacher, but also as a learner.

Transferring information (as in a lecture), does not mean those who attend the lecture will learn.

For learning to occur after being exposed to a lecture, other process must take place to facilitate learning.

One of these processes is identifying the most important concepts of the lecture and relating these concepts between them, and with previous knowledge.

A way to do this is through concept mapping, visual mapping, or also called mind mapping.

This can be done with paper and pencil, but is facilitated with special software that lets move concepts and their relations around the screen.

There are many software programs for mind mapping; some are free, some not. At this time, my preferred software is MindManager , which has a cost, and CmapTools, which is free, and is the one I use to work with my residents.

The map you see bellow is an example on how you can show, graphically, concepts and their relations.

Changing the traditional 1 hour lectures to a 15 or 20 minute lecture with collaborative mind mapping during the following 40 minutes, has empowered learning for my residents. Of course we cover less topics in one hour, but these are learned better.

There is no sense in covering more topics if these are not going to be learned.

In the following link you can see a map built by my residents after a lecture on Herpes Zoster, even though it’s in Spanish, you will see the power for concept mapping of CmapTools.

These maps can be built in a collaborative way, simultaneously, where several residents are working on the same concept map, as you can see in the photograph that follows. At the back of the picture you can see the projected map they are working on.

I enthusiastically encourage all involved in resident training to try this strategy. I am sure you will feel much less discouraged after evaluating what your residents have learned from your lectures.


  1. I have been using mindmanager some to organize my projects. This seems like an interesting idea. I assume the residents all must have computers and the computers are all set to a webpage that allows simultaneous viewing and editing - wiki like? Karl

  2. Hi Karl,

    CMapTool allows you to build maps in your computer and upload it to the web. Once there, other users of CmapTools can view and edit it. You must grant the permissions