Mind-map final exam

For the final of my recent Standards-Based Grading course (that link is to the syllabus, note also that many of my most recent posts have been about that course) I gave the students the following instructions:

  • Make a mind map of all the standards in this class.
    • A mind map uses bubbles for ideas and lines for connections.
      • Every standard should be its own bubble
      • Group all standards in a single chapter in a larger bubble
    • Concentrate on inter-chapter connections.
    • Draw lines between standards to represent a connection.
    • You can have multiple lines for every standard.
  • Find the standard with the most connections
    • Don’t include standard 7.4
    • Write a narrative (1 page at most) describing why that standard is such a central idea for this class.

Note that the reason I had to pull 7.4 out should be clear when you read it: “I can write down and briefly explain Maxwell’s equations, including how they lead to light.” That really was my main synthesis standard for the semester. I did this final exam this way because I wanted to assess their synthesis abilities in a different way.

I have to say that I was really impressed with the work the students did. I found that the mind-maps themselves weren’t that useful for me to see/assess, but the narratives were fantastic. One even said something to the effect of “I was expecting something from chapter 7 to be the one with the most connections, so I was surprised that it was something from chapter 2.”

I definitely had a standard in mind as the “right” answer, but I based my scoring on how well their narratives made a case for their choice. In fact, only one student chose that one, so what do I know?

The most popular choices were 1.2 “I can use the multivariable calculus fundamental theorems (Gauss’ law, Stokes law, etc)” and 2.1 “I can derive all the relationships among the electric field, the electric potential, and the charge density (this is one of Griffiths’ triangles).” The first one makes sense, as it’s the bulk of the math tools we use. The second one is a fine choice, but students lost points in their narrative if they didn’t find a way to make strong connections to the magnetism stuff. Most, however, did a really great job of discussing the various connections.

If found this to be one of my favorite finals to grade, ever. I had a smile on my face the whole time grading, and I read about some cool connections I hadn’t really thought about before.

Have you ever tried something like this? I want to do it again, but I have to find a way to keep students from knowing it’s coming so that they don’t just give me pat answers.

About Andy Rundquist

Professor of physics at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN
This entry was posted in physics, sbar, sbg. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Mind-map final exam

  1. Heather says:

    Sometimes on the last day of class I walk through an abbreviated mindmap with my students, offering it as a great way to study for the exam. But I never thought of actually asking them to do one for an exam. I think it’s a great idea.

    • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

      I love using mind maps on review days, but this time I purposely avoided doing it because I knew I was going to use it on the final.

  2. bretbenesh says:

    Hi Andy,

    Do I understand this correctly: your final exam had exactly one question on it (“Make a mindmap.”) Then the students had roughly two hours to do it? Or was in addition to a final exam?

    The link to your syllabus is super-helpful. I am contemplating doing oral assessments this semester, and it seems like you spent a whole lot of time grading this semester. Do you think that it was more than a typical, non-SBG-with-voice class?

    • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

      Hi Bret,
      They actually only had one hour to do it (I also did a post-test that was not graded that took up the other hour). It worked out pretty well, timing-wise.
      I would say I graded a little more than I would have for this many people, but not too bad.

  3. Toni says:

    What a cool idea!

    Similarly, some teachers ask students to compile mind maps on the issue they need help with when they go to see them during office hours.

    • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

      Hi Tony,
      That, too, is a cool idea! I’ve been impressed with the approaches my sbar/sbg colleagues have used when students approach them for re-assessment opportunities. I think having the students do a mind map would fit right in with those. Thanks!

  4. Derek Bruff says:

    Would it be possible for you to post a picture of one of the student-created mind maps here? Maybe one that resulted in standards 1.2 or 2.1 being selected for the reflection? I think this is a really interesting idea, but seeing a mind map would be helpful, I think.

  5. Pingback: Concept Maps at the Beginning, Middle, and End :: Agile Learning

  6. Joss Ives says:

    Hey Andy,

    There is nothing that brings me greater joy at the end of a course than to be smiling while marking their final.

    Did you find that the mind maps provided some useful feedback on future revisions of your standards? I can imagine things like a long a tendril where each node only connects to the last (special case of a special case) suggesting that all those ideas could be wrapped up in one standard or a bunch of awkward connections suggesting that there is an important node missing.

    • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

      I hadn’t thought of using the maps in that way, that’s a cool idea. I’m posting a few examples later today, and you’ll see that they’re quite dense, so nothing sticks out at me, for the moment, to augment/change/delete/etc.

  7. Chris Ostrowski says:

    I’ve had a professor provide their own mind map at the beginning of the semester, unfortunately we didn’t do much with it directly. The only related exercise we did was on tests, we were often asked to fill in the blanks of the Griffith’s triangles.

    Great idea though, especially the narrative! I think even if they know the mind map is coming, it sounds like the real benefit is in the narrative. You could randomize the standard they are asked to write about, perhaps amongst a few of the major standards.

  8. Pingback: Mind map standard | SuperFly Physics

  9. Pingback: I'm definitely stealing @arundquist's "mind map" idea for my music cognition class this summer. https://arundquist.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/mind-map-final-exam/

  10. Pingback: Thanks, Bill. I'd love to chat about this more as we progress through the course. One of the things I tried in this class was

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