Identifying critical junctures in learning in a college course on evolution



The purpose of this research study was to (a) describe how concept mapping can be used as an integral instructional strategy for teaching a college course on evolution, (b) evaluate the utility of incorporating concept mapping in a college course on evolution, (c) determine whether students' concept maps reveal “critical junctures” in learning as the course unfolds, and (d) assess the impact of concept mapping on students' study practices and on students' understanding of course content. Key findings include: (a) Critical junctures in learning evolution can be identified by monitoring the degree of concordance of superordinate concepts appearing on the class set of concept maps submitted after each of the course lectures; (b) students who made concept maps reported spending an average of 37% more study time on this college biology course than on their previous biology courses; and (c) the use of “seed concepts,” “micromapping,” a standard concept map format, and a standard concept map checklist made the strategy feasible for the instructor to implement and for the student to adopt. A concept map performance index formulas was also developed for this research study in order to assess students' overall mapping performance.