Aims. This paper reports a study examining the effects of adopting concept mapping in problem-based learning scenario discussions on the improvement of students’ learning outcomes in a nursing course.
Background. Students in Taiwan usually have a high degree of anxiety about whether or not they have learned enough. Problem-based learning is a method of teaching that uses a patient situation or scenario to stimulate students to acquire and apply information to solve problems. Concept mapping can promote problem-solving and critical thinking to help students organize complex patient data, process complex relationships and offer holistic care to patients.
Methods. An experimental design was used, with participants randomly assigned either to a control or experimental group. The experimental group participated in six problem-based learning scenario discussions during the 16-week semester, while the control group attended a traditional course.
Results. The experimental group had significantly higher proposition and hierarchy scores for their concept maps compared with the control group. There were no significant differences in the cross-link and example scores between the two groups. In general, the total score difference between the groups did not reach statistical significance levels. Only one student in the experimental group obtained a high score; most participants in both groups (over 50%) obtained low scores.
Conclusions. Concept mapping strategies may be useful for analysis of individual student's thinking processes for (1) emphasizing key concepts or main ideas, (2) understanding relationships between different concepts, including cause–effect and part–whole relationships, (3) reviewing propositions, hierarchies and cross-links in a logically scientific way, and (4) revising concept structures to agree with theory and experience.