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TEACHING AND LEARNING WITH CONCEPT MAPS IN ENGINEERING

This paper proposes the use of concept maps to help the engineering degree students to acquire the necessary knowledge of teaching the basic principles of water waste treatment plants. Education in engineering degrees has begun to use the concept maps and their benefits as a technique for knowledge integration. This work is focused on the subject Environmental Engineering from the first-year Mechanical Engineering at the University of La Rioja.

Concept maps can be used as very useful tools to motivate and involve students in teaching-learning processes. For many years, concept maps have been used as a vehicle for clearly representation the characteristics of a vast and complex project so that it can be easily understood. Today, engineers use the conceptual maps as effective tools to project and show ideas. A conceptual map begins with a key concept that will be developed as if a seed that formed by a network of roots, and more specific concepts, which could be considered the leaves and the fruits of the initial seed. The hierarchical structure allows shedding and concreting the meanings, through the reflection of the concepts. Thus, activating a meaningful learning that forces the students to understand and integrate the new knowledge in its previous structure.

This work presents an experience developed to measure the learning process through concept maps. The methodology was applied in the classroom in two different ways. Before starting the topic, a conceptual map of the students' prior knowledge in the subject was developed. At the end of the topic, the students had to complete their own conceptual maps about what they had learned in class. These concept maps developed by the students of individually or in groups was expose it to the rest of the class. The measurements were made taking into account: the complexity of the map, the influence of the realization of the map individually or in groups and the comparison with the learning results through traditional evaluation methods. Results supporting the beneficial impact of concepts maps on student performance has been presented in different formats: evaluation test, and self-report data.

The results from this experience in Environmental Engineering topic demonstrate the viability of this approach. We believe that in this teaching strategy in which concept maps have been used as a learning tool, the results have been very favorable and have generated significant long-term learning, thus providing a basis for professional practice. In addition, the creation of concept maps encourages students' creativity and imagination.