Using Concept Mapping to Foster Adaptive Expertise

Enhancing Teacher Metacognitive Learning to Improve Student Academic Performance

by Diane Salmon (Author) Melissa Kelly (Author)
©2015 Textbook VIII, 263 Pages
Series: Educational Psychology, Volume 29


Concept mapping is a powerful means to promote metacognitive learning in students and teachers alike. When teachers integrate concept mapping into their instructional planning, they clarify the big ideas, expose new conceptual relationships, and refine learning goals for their students. Salmon and Kelly provide a research-based framework and corresponding strategies to help teachers develop, critique, and revise their concept maps. In using this approach, teachers refine knowledge for teaching in order to expand their adaptive expertise and ultimately improve the academic performances of their students. Teacher candidates at both the undergraduate and graduate level can use this book to support their professional learning and planning for teaching. Teacher educators will find this text appropriate for courses that address learning, cognition, and instructional planning. In-service professionals can use the approach described here to support their own professional development through their practice. Administrators and coaches will find the volume a useful tool in fostering a professional learning community in their schools.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Part I. Theoretical and Empirical Basis for Teacher Concept Mapping
  • Chapter 1. Metacognitive Learning
  • Adaptive Expertise for and in Teaching
  • Adaptive Expertise Through Metacognitive Learning
  • Concept Mapping to Promote Metacognitive Learning
  • Adaptive Expertise as a Learning Trajectory
  • Metacognitive Learning Through Instructional Planning
  • Priming Your Prior Knowledge of Visual Tools
  • Coda for the Teachers’ Visual Representations of Assessment
  • Chapter 2. Our Metacognitive Learning Through and About Concept Mapping
  • Overview of Design-Based Research
  • Incorporating Concept Mapping Into Teacher Education
  • DBR Cycle I: What do concept maps reveal about teacher learning?
  • DBR Cycle II: How do teachers’ concept maps relate to other representational modes?
  • DBR Cycle III: How does concept mapping engage teachers in metacognitive learning?
  • Chapter 3. Teacher Learning Trajectories
  • Concept Mapping to Enhance Instructional Planning
  • Example of a Teacher’s Metacognitive Approach to Planning
  • Ms. Andrews’s Teaching Dilemmas
  • Ms. Andrews’s Metacognitive Learning and Instructional Planning
  • Summary of Ms. Andrews’s Metacognitive Learning and Metacognitive Approach to Planning
  • Pedagogical Content Knowledge Revealed Through Concept Mapping
  • PCK Snapshots From an Expert and a Novice
  • Example of a Teacher’s Learning Trajectory With Concept Mapping
  • Ms. Jay’s Instructional Problem
  • Ms. Jay’s Metacognitive Learning
  • Engaging Your Adaptive Expertise
  • Part II. The Practices of Concept Mapping
  • Constructing a Concept Map for Instructional Planning
  • Overview of the Process
  • Chapter 4. Selecting the Big Ideas
  • Definition of a Concept
  • Forming a Focus Question for the Concept Map
  • Selecting Concepts Using a Big Ideas Approach
  • The Big Ideas and Curricular Standards
  • The Big Ideas and Student Learning Progressions
  • The Big Ideas and PCK
  • Engaging Your Adaptive Expertise: Selecting the Big Ideas
  • Chapter 5. Articulating the Linking Phrases
  • The Function of Linking Phrases
  • Unpacking Relationships in the Big Ideas
  • Linking Phrases and Types of Relationships
  • Interactions Among the Practices of Concept Mapping
  • Engaging Your Adaptive Expertise: Articulating Linking Phrases
  • Chapter 6. Organizing Conceptual Structures
  • Conceptual Structures and Differentiation in Concept Maps
  • Differentiation of Concepts
  • Spoke Structures
  • Chain Structures
  • Network Structures
  • Organizing Conceptual Structures for Instructional Planning
  • Concept Structures in Teacher Learning Trajectories: Opportunities and Constraints
  • Transformation of a Spoke Structure
  • Constraints of a Chain Structure
  • Strengthening of a Network Structure
  • Engaging Your Adaptive Expertise: Organizing Conceptual Structures
  • Chapter 7. Creating Conceptual Coherence
  • Strengthening Coherence in Concept Maps Through Crosslinks
  • Crosslinks and Metacognitive Feedback
  • Crosslinks and PCK
  • Strengthening Coherence in Concept Maps Through Cycle Structures
  • Cycle Structures and Metacognitive Feedback
  • Cycle Structures and PCK
  • Engaging Your Adaptive Expertise: Adding Crosslinks and Cycles
  • Part III. Tools for Integrating Multiple Perspectives Within and Across Concept Maps
  • Chapter 8. Evaluating Concept Maps for Instructional Planning
  • Using Metacognitive Feedback From the Practices of Concept Mapping
  • Feedback From Selecting the Big Ideas
  • Feedback From Articulating Linking Phrases
  • Feedback From Organizational Structure
  • Feedback From Creating Coherence
  • Interactions Among Concept Mapping Practices
  • Concept Mapping, Metacognitive Learning, and Adaptive Expertise
  • Chapter 9. Mentoring Instructional Planning Via Concept Maps
  • Using Multiple Representational Modes to Facilitate Mentoring
  • Examples of Mentoring Opportunities
  • Expanding Content Knowledge for Teaching
  • Structuring Big Ideas to Advance PCK
  • Achieving Conceptual Coherence for Teaching
  • Mentoring Adaptive Expertise via Concept Mapping
  • A Role for Concept Maps in Teaching Evaluations
  • Chapter 10. Collaborative Concept Mapping and Adaptive Expertise
  • Multiplying the Value of Concept Mapping
  • Protocol for Collaborative Concept Mapping
  • Participants and Initial Preparation
  • Steps in the Protocol
  • Discourse Strategies in Collaborative Concept Mapping
  • Example of Collaborative Concept Mapping
  • Articulation and Clarification: Initial Preparation, Step 1, and Step 2
  • Negotiation: Step 3, Step 4, and Step 5
  • Elaboration: Step 6 and Step 7
  • Team Reflection in Collaborative Concept Mapping
  • Concluding Thoughts on Collaborative Concept Mapping
  • Chapter 11. Tools for Constructing Concept Maps
  • Tools for the Construction of Concept Maps
  • CMapTools
  • Capabilities That Have Influenced Our Selection and Use of CmapTools
  • Challenges That We Have Faced Using CmapTools
  • Selecting a Tool for Your Professional Context
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • Appendix A. Sample Concept Maps
  • Appendix B. Concept Mapping Tools
  • Author Index
  • Subject Index
  • Series Index


Concept maps are powerful tools that promote metacognitive learning for both students and teachers. The practice of concept mapping is a long-standing learning strategy with a robust research base showing its impact on student achievement (Hattie, 2009; Novak, 1998). In the same way that concept mapping benefits students’ learning, it can also benefit teachers’ learning. Specifically, concept mapping can function as embedded professional development for teachers in the context of their instructional planning. The underlying thinking processes are timeless in that they are required for realizing virtually any curricular standards.

This book is intended to help teachers at all levels integrate concept mapping into their instructional planning routines in service of building their adaptive expertise. The concept mapping practices described in the book provide a systematic approach to help teachers become more metacognitive and refine their conceptual frameworks for teaching. We argue that as teachers become more metacognitive in their instructional planning, they will ultimately improve the academic performances of their students. Aspiring teachers, practicing teachers, and those who support their growth should find value in the principles and practices outlined in this book. ← vii | viii →

The book consists of three main parts. Part I, comprised of chapters 1, 2, and 3, presents the theoretical and empirical foundations for how and why concept mapping is such a powerful tool for teachers in their instructional planning. Part II (chapters 4, 5, 6, and 7) draws upon the foundations in Part I to outline the four core practices of concept mapping: selecting the big ideas, articulating linking phrases, organizing concept structures, and integrating structures to create coherence. Part III (chapters 8, 9, 10, and 11) extends the practices of concept mapping for instructional planning by illustrating different perspectives on those practices. These perspectives include the teacher’s own self-monitoring, a mentor’s use of concept maps to anchor mentoring dialogues, and a team’s collaborative concept mapping to plan for student learning. In chapter 11, we present an overview of tools that enable the construction of concept maps and features of the tools that support the various perspectives illustrated in Part III of the book.

Throughout the book there are numerous examples of concept maps from a variety of subject areas. We have adapted these concept maps from our research with teachers who created them for instructional planning. The illustrations are meant to show how concept mapping applies across domains and even beyond the examples provided. The illustrations also create an opportunity to practice reading concept maps. Hence, the text provides guided practice in both reading and constructing concept maps for instructional planning. ← viii | 1 →


← 1 | 2 →

← 2 | 3 →



Designing for learning is a blend of art and science that entails disciplined improvisation from thoughtful instructional planning (Hammerness, Darling-Hammond, & Bransford, 2005; Sawyer, 2004). What does this principle really mean in practice? How can teachers engage in systematic work within a discipline and improvise at the same time? One way to explore this paradoxical tension is through the qualities of adaptive expertise. To improvise in a disciplined way is the essence of adaptive expertise. Adaptive experts adopt a learning orientation to their work to continually learn from what they do and then use that learning to improve their practice. Adaptive teachers intentionally investigate the adequacy of their own knowledge for teaching particular subject areas and seek new ways to extend their knowledge bases for teaching.

The instructional planning context is particularly apt for nurturing thinking associated with adaptive expertise in teaching. While establishing routines for planning and teaching, adaptive teachers would adapt these practices to the complex, dynamic demands of the classroom environment, analyze evidence of their impact, and incorporate this learning into their subsequent planning. Adaptive teachers would guard against complacency in using established routines by stopping to question their purpose and value. In essence, adaptive teaching would entail a metacognitive approach to teaching that ← 3 | 4 → enables self-directed learning. This metacognitive approach involves making the thinking processes required in instructional planning visible for critique. While lesson plans can play this role to some extent, they are primarily used by teachers to design lesson activities rather than to encourage their own metacognitive learning. In contrast, the product and process of concept mapping are precisely intended to encourage such metacognitive learning.

Incorporating concept mapping into instructional planning can engage teachers’ adaptive expertise by providing metacognitive feedback on their thinking processes for instructional planning. Regardless of an individual’s level of experience or the subject matter context, the process of concept mapping makes teachers’ thinking explicit, simultaneously triggering insights and enabling more intentional self-directed learning. Concept mapping methods can also challenge teachers’ thinking and extend their learning about the instructional domains that they teach.

Throughout this book, we show how using concept mapping as a part of instructional planning can increase efficiency in designing learning opportunities for students while it helps teachers think about and extend their professional knowledge. In the first three chapters, we provide a theoretical and empirical foundation for the use of concept mapping as a teaching and learning tool. Chapter 1 elaborates on the three big ideas that are central to this book: adaptive expertise, metacognitive learning, and concept mapping. Specifically, we present our theory of concept mapping for instructional planning to engage teachers’ adaptive expertise. In chapter 2 we elaborate on these big ideas by describing our research and metacognitive learning as we incorporated concept mapping into our own teaching. Our story is laced with evidence of the impact of concept mapping on our own metacognitive learning and our students’ metacognitive learning. We extend this discussion in chapter 3 to illustrate how concept mapping can shape a metacognitive learning trajectory for teachers in the context of their instructional planning.

Regardless of where teachers are in their professional learning trajectories, we have found that teachers at various levels of experience stand to benefit by incorporating concept mapping into their approach to planning. We have seen concept mapping benefit teacher candidates who are preparing to take on roles in primary or secondary contexts, as well as the teacher educators who are preparing them. We argue that even seasoned instructional planners can benefit from adding concept mapping to their routines by simultaneously creating efficiencies in their planning and extending their learning from practice. ← 4 | 5 →

· 1 ·


Adaptive experts are distinguished by a metacognitive learning orientation that enables them to continually learn from what they do. When teachers approach their practice with a metacognitive awareness, they can better adapt their teaching in relation to student learning. Concept mapping for instructional planning promotes this metacognitive orientation by making thinking visible and providing a process for its critique.


VIII, 263
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (January)
instructional planning knowledge development cognition Metacognitive learning Conceptual relationship Professional learning Cognition Learning
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 263 pp., num. ill.

Biographical notes

Diane Salmon (Author) Melissa Kelly (Author)

Diane Salmon received her doctorate in educational psychology (with concentrations in school psychology and human development) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1989. She is a tenured faculty member at National-Louis University in the School and Educational Psychology Department and Research Director for the College of Education. Salmon is the author of several articles and a text for professional educators, Facilitating Interpersonal Relationships in the Classroom: The Relational Literacy Curriculum. Melissa Kelly is a PhD candidate in educational psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she is also a visiting clinical lecturer. Kelly has co-written several articles and book chapters related to online teaching and learning.


Title: Using Concept Mapping to Foster Adaptive Expertise
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274 pages