Mindmapping: its effects on student achievement in high school biology

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Cunningham, Glennis Edge

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The primary goal of schools is to promote the highest degree of learning possible. Yet teachers spend the majority of their time engaged in lecturing while students spend the majority of their time passively present (Cawelti, 1997, Grinder, 1991; Jackson & Davis, 2000; Jenkins, 1996). Helping students develop proficiency in learning, which translates into using that expertise to construct knowledge in subject domains, is a crucial goal of education. Students need exposure to teaching and learning practices that prepare them for both the classroom and their places in the future workforce (Ettinger, 1998; Longley, Goodchild, Maguire, & Rhind, 2001; NRC, 1996; Texley & Wild, 1996). The purpose of this study was to determine if achievement in high school science courses could be enhanced utilizing mindmapping. The subjects were primarily 9th and 10th graders (n = 147) at a suburban South Texas high school. A pretest-posttest control group design was selected to determine the effects of mindmapping on student achievement as measured by a teacher-developed, panelvalidated instrument. Follow-up interviews were conducted with the teacher and a purposive sample of students (n = 7) to determine their perceptions of mindmapping and its effects on teaching and learning. Mindmapping is a strategy for visually displaying large amounts of conceptual, hierarchical information in a concise, organized, and accessible format. Mindmaps arrange information similar to that found on the traditional topic outline into colorful spatial displays that offer the user a view of the “forest” as well as the “trees” (Hyerle, 1996; Wandersee, 1990b). An independent samples t-test and a one-way analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) determined no significant difference in achievement between the groups. The experimental group improved in achievement at least as much as the control group. Several factors may have played a role in the lack of statistically significant results. These factors include the instrument, the duration of the study, limited teacher training, and teacher constructed mindmaps to the exclusion of student constructed mindmaps. Mindmapping has affective value as a teaching and learning strategy as indicated by the follow-up interview data. Further research is necessary to determine the extent of its effectiveness.