Abstract: This paper evaluates the effectiveness of concept maps as a teaching and learning tool in university level Principles of Microeconomics courses in Australia and USA. Concept mapping was incorporated in the teaching material in both courses at different countries and, at the end of the semester, the students completed a survey regarding the use, effectiveness, and accessibility of concept maps. It was revealed that USA students valued concept maps relatively less than Australian students. We provide two explanations: First, there may be differences in prior training in economic and/or concept mapping between Australian and USA students. Second, there were significant differences in class structure, which caused the link between collaborative study-groups and the construction of concept maps to not be maintained in the case of USA students.
The students studying Principles of Microeconomics in the Department of Economics at Monash University in second semester 2001, responded quite positively to the introduction of concept maps in lectures and tutorials. It appears, though, that only a small percentage of Monash students used concepts maps as a tool for exam preparation, and an even smaller percentage used concept mapping in other subjects. Thus, while Monash students found concept mapping as a tool for understanding concepts in economics, they did not extend the effectiveness of this tool in exam preparation and in other subjects. Strangely enough, the applicability of concept maps to other subjects was questioned by the Monash students studying economics.
The students studying Principles of Microeconomics in the Department of Economics at Colorado State University in spring semester 2004, also responded positively to the introduction of concept maps in lectures and tutorials. However, the CSU students valued the concept maps relatively less, compared with the Monash students. We posited two possible explanations for this, and feel that both are plausible. We are particularly intrigued with the second explanation, which was that the link between collaborative student study-groups and the construction of concept maps was broken for the CSU students because of class size. This would explain the differences for the student perception of the effectiveness of concept maps. More study is needed, using USA students in smaller classes to test this hypothesis.
This could have substantial consequences for the development of new teaching methodologies in economics. As shown in the literature, recent advances in teaching methodology revolve primarily around deep learning, active learning, and collaborative study. A major concern for the implementation of new teaching methodologies is the size of classes, as large classes do not allow a large degree of freedom. However, in an environment of strict budget constraint for higher education in Australia and the USA, the reduction of class size is not foreseeable in the near future. This is very likely to create obstacles in the implementation of new teaching methodologies that are not “cost efficient”, but have a high in return for student learning and performance.
I have met professors who have never heard of Aplia at US Ivy league universities, yet using textbooks on their system. Students need to be provided with all the avenues to study as different students have different intelligences in which they're strong.
My advice on concept mapping, use Mind Manager, the best such product in the market right now.