Cognitive maps: what they are and how to use them to learn or educate

Learning, or the acquisition and assimilation of information or knowledge, is not something that happens randomly, but people need to be studied and repeated through exercises or experiences in order to to achieve assimilation of any material or concept.

However, there are a number of learning techniques that can make this task easier, of these techniques involve the use of so-called cognitive maps. These cognitive maps are a great way to illustrate and capture a series of ideas or knowledge so that the person can absorb and incorporate any kind of information into their cognitive patterns.

    What are cognitive maps?

    A cognitive map is a strategic tool that allows the assimilation and retention of any type of information through the graphic representation of ideas and concepts. This representation is expressed through the use of sketches, diagrams or diagrams.

    The denomination of this technique by the word “map” has a metaphorical meaning, because it is used as a kind of geographical map through which the person can unite different concepts.

    These cognitive maps are established in different ways depending on the the procedures for collecting, filtering and evaluating information that the person performs. Moreover, it is also generated according to the load of information that the person collects from the context in which he finds himself.

    Another of their advantages is that they are modelable and subject to change over time as the subject adds information. Also persistent and resistant to oblivion, as long as the person does not stop interacting with this context.

    main Features

    Besides being a very useful tool for learning in any of the fields or topics in which the subject may be involved, cognitive maps have a number of unique characteristics:

    • They are beneficial for the systematization of all academic content, at school and outside.
    • They can be useful both to the educator as for the student when he focuses on specific topics.
    • They are effective in constructing very concise or concrete meanings.
    • They grant the person the opportunity to compare, differentiate, order, group and organize a lot of information.

    Functionality of these resources

    Given the relevance and benefits of cognitive maps, they can be very useful for four aspects of the teaching-learning process:

    1. Learning meanings

    When it is a graphical representation of how the student’s cognitive structure is ordered, it is a basic strategy when it comes to increase and improve memory management and recollection of meanings, To synthesize the concepts and simplify the self-assessment.

    2. Educational strategy

    The teacher or educator can turn to them method of organizing and planning the subjects or subjects of the academic program.

    3. Assessment method

    It can be widely used to compare, evaluate and analyze the pros and cons of evaluation processes used by teachers.

    4. Learning resource

    Cognitive maps are an excellent technique for organize the information or material that the student must learn or assimilate.

    Considering the number of functions and benefits that cognitive maps can acquire, they should be seen as something more than just a tool in the form of a diagram that the student uses to organize information, by making it known to both students and teachers. a great amount of virtues and qualities that it can have in the field of learning.


    Like a map or a learning diagram, internal maps have a specific structure that facilitates the assimilation of information. This structure is divided into two: the external structure and the internal structure.

    external structure

    The external structure of cognitive maps is that which encompasses the fundamental elements. These are:

    • concepts: They are more like pictures and do not have to be the same in all people, as each subject captures the meaning or significance of concepts in one way or another.
    • proposals: They constitute the union of several concepts by means of locutions of links, thus establishing a semantic unit.
    • Link phrases: They are located next to the connecting lines in order to explain or clarify the meaning of what is being expressed.
    • Join lines: Lines that act as a link between the propositions.

    In terms of internal structure, this is what makes the cognitive map such an effective cognitive tool. This internal structure includes:

    • hierarchy: Concepts should be ranked according to their degree of relevance or inclusiveness. The more inclusive a concept or the more information it contains, it should occupy a higher place within the structure.
    • sections: It should be organized into different sections containing the most relevant information on a topic.
    • visual clarity: The structure must be visual and clear, highlighting the most important concepts or propositions of the subject.

    Types of cognitive maps

    There are many variations, already pre-established, of cognitive maps. The most popular are described below.

    Unique type cognitive map

    The sun-type cognitive map constitutes a diagram with a figure similar to that of a sun, which the center has a main theme and where the concepts or ideas related to this topic come from.

    The main function of this type of map is to introduce and organize a concept or topic, along with its main features or descriptions.

    Cognitive map of clouds

    It forms a diagram made up of figures in the form of clouds, inside which the information is arranged. As in the type-only card, it starts from an idea or a main topic, from which the sub-themes that appear around it come from.

    It is a technique of organizing and internalizing the characteristics of a specific subject.

    Cognitive cycle map

    It is a type of sketch in which ordered information is recorded chronologically or sequentially, Which ends up taking the form of continuous serialization using circles or arrows.

    The start of the series should be noted in the upper circle, while in the other circles the following steps are recorded.

    It is a very useful diagram to symbolize temporal or circuit-shaped information.

    Cognitive map of common aspects

    In this type of diagram, two different sections are established connected by a common area. It is a very interesting technique if you want detect common principles, foundations or ideas between two subjects.

    Cognitive map of bad water

    The configuration of this diagram appears to simulate the structure of a jellyfish, noting in the upper area the title of the subject or idea, followed by a series of boxes with the sub-themes or divisions of the ideas. finally the characteristics or principles of each sub-theme in the form of vertical lines are noted.

    The use of this type of cognitive map consists in organizing the contents according to their themes, sub-themes and the main ideas that result from them.

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