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Med Teach. 2013 Sep;35(9):e1478-84. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2013.785628. Epub 2013 Apr 25.

A randomized pilot study of the use of concept maps to enhance problem-based learning among first-year medical students.

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Harvard Medical School, USA.



Medical student education is challenging, and concept maps (CMs) can help students link new and existing knowledge, promote critical thinking and identify knowledge gaps.


To study the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of CMs in problem-based learning (PBL) tutorials.


Students and tutors were randomized to tutorials that used or did not use CMs. A mixed-methods approach generated qualitative and quantitative results of participants' perspectives on and the effects of CMs in PBL tutorials.


Student survey response rate was 71% (122/172). Most students (82.6%) planned to use CMs in the future at least occasionally, and students in CM tutorials endorsed increased likelihood of using CMs in the future (p = 0.02) versus students in non-CM tutorials. Qualitative analyses identified consistent associations between CMs and recurrent themes: integration of physiological mechanisms, challenging students' knowledge of the material, and identification of knowledge gaps. Quantitative assessment of final exam scores revealed a statistically significant increase in the students' scores in CM tutorials versus students in non-CM tutorials with an a priori α of <0.10.


CMs are well accepted by students and faculty, feasible to incorporate into PBL tutorials, and may result in improved exam performance and student learning of physiologic concepts.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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