Consensual Concept Maps in Early Childhood Education

Consensual Concept Maps in Early Childhood Education

Rosario Mérida Serrano
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-992-2.ch020
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The study described here was designed to demonstrate the sociocognitive benefits experienced by preschool children, specifically 5 year-olds, when they participated in a collaborative activity whose central task was the production of consensual preconcept maps. This task required oral interaction throughout the process of meaning negotiation and the selection of the preconcepts required by such a task. Therefore, the objective of the author’s research was twofold: (1) on one hand, to investigate the educational relevance of collaborative work to an early childhood classroom (with 5 year-old pupils), and (2) to explore the possibility of using consensual preconcept maps at this level, analysing the implications for the development of children’s competence.
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What Do We Mean When We Refer To Collaborative Learning? Some Conceptual Clarifications

The terms collaborative vs. cooperative learning appear repeatedly in the literature. Although some authors (Woods, 1989) tend to collapse these terms, our own understanding is more in line with those who claim the existence of a difference between the two concepts (Edwards 1992). The latter notion maintains that collaborative learning derives from a sociocultural perspective, while cooperative learning corresponds to a Piagetian approach to constructivism. The essential difference between these two learning processes is that in the first, collaborative learning, it is the pupils who design their interaction structure and maintain control over the various decisions that will have repercussions on their learning, while in the second, cooperative learning, it is the teacher who almost entirely designs and maintains control over the interaction structures and the results to be obtained (Panitz, 1995). Therefore, each paradigm represents an extreme of the teaching-learning process, which ranges from being highly teacher-structured (cooperative) to leaving the responsibility for learning primarily with the pupil (collaborative).

Despite these important differences, the two models should be seen as part of a continuum based on constructivist epistemology as well as the theory of social interdependence proposed by Lewin (1948), which situates collaborative learning as an interdependent social activity where common goals are established with others in such a way that each person’s results are affected by the actions of the others (Johnson & Johnson, 1989). In sum, we understand collaborative learning in an educational context to be a model of interactive learning that invites pupils to share efforts, talents and competencies by means of a series of transactions which permit them to achieve a shared goal together.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Collaborative Learning: Learning methodologies that promote collaboration among individuals to understand, share and expand the information that each one has about the topic.

Intersubjectivity: Process of interpsychological regulation that takes place within a context of social interaction among equals and where participants attempt to collaboratively co-construct solutions.

Preconcept Maps: Preconcept maps are an adaptation of the concept maps devised by Novak and Gowin (1988) to the sociocognitive capacities of pre-school pupils. They are symbolic-graphic diagrams comprised of preconcepts (expressed in terms of symbols), oral connectors (relating the concepts) and hierarchical levels (coded by ordinal numbers and colours).

Modalities of Sociocognitive Interaction: Typology of social and cognitive relations that may be produced among subjects, normally involving two dimensions: the quantity of interactions and the symmetry of the exchanges.

Consensual Preconcept Maps: Preconcept maps produced by a group of children (4 to 5 children) that consist of the preconcepts previously agreed upon by everyone.

Social Interdependence: Process of social interaction where certain common goals are established with other people in such a way that each person’s results are affected by the actions of the others.

Early Childhood Education: Phase of the Spanish educational system that serves children from 0 to 6 years of age.

Concept Mapping: Is a technique for visualizing the relationships among different concepts. Is a diagram showing the relationships among concepts, which are connected with labelled arrows in a downward-branching hierarchical structure. The relationship between concepts is articulated in linking phrases.

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