Mind Mapping in Education

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Mind Mapping in Education

Educators and students have been drawing concept maps and mind maps on paper for many years. Visual software applications, in particular mind mapping tools, have automated this process, making it more efficient to brainstorm concepts as ideas or branches. This allows for the creation of much larger mind maps, and the ability to easily re-organized branches by dragging and dropping them around the map. Furthermore, some mind mapping software applications integrate with MS Office, allowing students to convert their ideas into other documents such as Word or PowerPoint. In education, mind mapping is often used for:

  • Brainstorming sessions
  • Visualizing concepts
  • Improving critical thinking
  • Decision making
  • Improving reading and writing skills
  • Advanced research papers or graduate projects
  • Outlining written documents
  • Storyboarding presentations
  • Project management

Mind Mapping Research and Pilot Studies

It is a known fact that working with mind maps helps students organize their ideas and understand concepts better. Since an outline is sequential, it can be difficult to work with, especially for students that struggle with the process. Mind mapping is a freer, non-sequential way to organize material, making the process more coherent; in particular for students that may not be process oriented, but visually oriented. Mind mapping is also recognized as an assistive tool where for instance, students with Asperger or dyslexia will benefit from the mind mapping method.

A study conducted by The National Reading Panel (NRP) in 2000 (Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and its Implications for Reading Instruction) showed that the use of visual organization tools was one of the 7 most effective ways to improve students retention.

The Institute for the Advancement of Research in Education (IARE) at AEL conducted a research study in 2003 entitled Graphic Organizers: A Review of Scientifically Based Research. The study concluded that Graphic organizers:

  • Improve reading comprehension
  • Benefit students achievement levels
  • Enhance thinking and learning skills
  • Increase retention
  • Support cognitive learning theory

"Organizing ideas and concepts into graphic patterns has been explored for years by cognitive educators. Mind Mapping builds a process structure or “map” over the content body of the material a person has gathered, thereby organizing it for development. Constructivism, simply stated, is the philosophy that we learn by organizing new concepts and ideas relative to our own experience. Mind Mapping mirrors the constructivist theory. Research has shown that developing mind maps increases thinking, memory and learning skills. Recently Lehigh acquired a software program called MindView, which takes the idea of Mind Mapping to a new level."

- Johanna Brams, MSEdT, Lehigh University


A pilot study for students in a Nursing Program was conducted by David A. Boley, Professor at John Hopkins University. Students were divided into two groups, one group using mind mapping and mind mapping templates for various subject areas, the other group continuing with their usual learning methods. The study concluded that pre-made mind maps:

  • Enhanced simulation learning significantly
  • Positively impacted the learning experience
  • Produced a 12% increase in test scores

When the group that did not use mind mapping was later introduced to the mind mapping method, their achievements increased equally validating the results.