Team Concept Maps

Team Concept Map (Barkley’s list of Student Engagement Techniques (2009, p 219)

Synthesis and Creative Thinking

  • Team Concept Maps are a SET within the topic of “Synthesis and Creative Thinking”. My target audience to use this SET was a group of volunteer members of a non-profit organization who needed not only to synthesize, discuss and brainstorm on various topics, but also to come up with creative solutions to problems at hand, so from the face of it I thought this could be the perfect engagement tool to use.
  • Barkley states that creative thinking is “the ability to interweave the familiar with the new in unexpected and stimulating ways (Barkley 2009, p 218, referencing Angelo and Cross 1993, p. 181). Team Concept Maps essentially assist in the creating thinking process. This engagement strategy allows students to take a familiar concept and by a process of mapping out those concepts in the context of team collaboration, students in the group can be stimulated to more creative thinking on the particular topic at hand.
  • Barkley defines synthesis as “the process by which pre-existing ideas, influences, or objects are combined in such a manner as to make a new, unified whole (Barkley 2009, p. 218).

Team Concept Maps SET

The way team concept maps work as an activity is that students collaborate to design graphic organizer to convert complex information into visually meaningful displays. Students draw diagrams that display combined ideas of students ideas and understanding on any given topic. Students would get together and discuss an issue/topic/concept, then visualize what was discussed by drawing out a team concept map, or diagram, of how the concepts/ideas/thoughts are interconnected under one given topic. Students would have to be in groups and have sufficient drawing materials (paper, pens/pencils) to draw out their concept maps. However, online solutions such as could also work as it allows for collaborative diagram drawing.

Exampls of Concept Maps

Concept Map

From: (labeled for reuse)

Another concept map using just connecting lines:



Application to my context

I can definitely use concept maps in the context of students in a Higher Ed business school where I work. There are many courses in which students must collaborate in groups to do case studies, group projects, assignments or brainstorming sessions to encourage innovative, entrepreneurial ideas. In this context team concept maps would be very helpful in visualizing otherwise complex topics with a lot of interconnected elements. I would definitely encourage professors to use this technique either in face-to-face sessions or in online learning spaces with tools similar to lucidchart. 


Barkley, E. F. (2009). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. John Wiley & Sons.

Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed.) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Babwahsingh, Michael. (2012). Putting Visual Thinking to Work. Accessed on November 1, 2015 from: