Assessment - looking at children’s work in science


Concept maps are one of a range of tools which teachers can use to gather information about children’s ideas. Concept maps can be used as a tool for learning as well as a tool for assessment. They provide children and teachers with a method of recording and discussing children’s ideas about different scientific concepts.

Concept maps are schematic representations of relationships between concepts. Usually the starting point for drawing a concept map is a list of concept words which are known to the children and which can be linked together. It is best to draw up the list with the children and it should only include words thoroughly familiar to them. They can then be asked to draw lines and write joining words on the lines. For children in infant and junior classes concept-mapping cards with pictures can be used. The results can be analysed to give insight into the relationships which the children see between things. The value of concept maps is enhanced if they form the basis for discussion and questioning between the individual child and the teacher.

Concept maps compiled at the start of the topic may indicate the level of understanding of the children and the misconceptions and gaps in their knowledge. Concept maps show a large body of information and can help to inform future teaching strategies. They are particularly useful in evaluating the learning that has occurred during a teaching programme. Children can complete concept maps at the end of the topic and these can give an indication of whether or not they have altered or changed their ideas and whether anything has been learnt or understood.