Can concept mapping support the quality of reflections made by undergraduate medical students? A mixed method study

J.M. Sieben*, S. Heeneman, M.M. Verheggen, E.W. Driessen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BackgroundStudents perceive reflective writing as difficult. Concept mapping may be an alternative format for reflection, which provides support while allowing students to freely shape their thoughts. We examined (1) the quality of reflection in reflective concept maps created by first-year medical students and (2) students' perceptions about concept mapping as a tool for reflection.MethodsMixed-method study conducted within the medical curriculum of Maastricht University, The Netherlands, consisting of: (1) Analysis of the quality of reflection in 245 reflective concept maps created by 40 first-year students. Reflection quality was analysed by assessing focus of reflection (technical/practical/sensitising) and depth of reflection (description/justification/critique/discussion). (2) Semi-structured interviews with 22 students to explore perceived effectiveness of reflective concept mapping.ResultsDepth of reflection reached at least the level of critique in 82% of maps. Three factors appeared to affect the perceived effectiveness of concept mapping for reflection: (1) reflective concept map structure; (2) alertness to meaningful experiences in practice and (3) learning by doing.ConclusionThese results yielded supportive evidence for concept mapping as a useful technique to teach novice learners the basics of effective reflection. Meaningful implementation requires a delicate balance between providing a supportive structure and allowing flexibility for the student.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)388-396
Number of pages9
JournalMedical Teacher
Issue number4
Early online date3 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2021


  • concept mapping
  • medical curriculum
  • reflection quality
  • undergraduate
  • Concept mapping

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