Nurse practitioner (NP) faculties continuously strive to provide students with engaging and relevant learning experiences to enhance their academic achievement and for the continuation of knowledge acquisition throughout their future endeavors. Standard teaching and learning processes depend on a linear method, the use of outlines, and traditional note taking. Although these techniques are useful, the methods lack engagement, associations, and creativity. When associations are developed in a creative and engaging manner, learning and knowledge acquisition are enhanced.
The concept of radiant thinking enhances diverse aspects of the brain working in synergy, a natural process, with thought beginning from a central point. The mind-mapping technique promotes the use of our natural ability to think in a radiant manner. Mind mapping was first developed in the 1970s and is a nontraditional processing technique that enhances memory recall and facilitates the learning process (Buzan, 1996).
A few studies have evaluated the effectiveness of mind mapping use in the classroom as a study technique and as an alternative to care plans. D’Antoni, Zipp, Olson, and Cahill (2010) evaluated the use of mind mapping to facilitate information retrieval and critical thinking in medical students. In that study, 131 first-year medical students were randomly assigned to standard note taking or to mind mapping during class in an effort to evaluate retention of new material. The information learned was measured and compared with a preclass quiz followed by a postclass quiz. No statistical significant difference was noted between the two groups, demonstrating the successful use of the mind-mapping technique for short-term information retrieval.
Ferrand, Hussain, and Hennessy (2002) performed a study of 50 second- and third-year medical students to evaluate the efficacy of mind mapping as a study technique. Students were assigned to two groups—a self-selected study technique group and a mind mapping group. Recall was evaluated after the study period and 1 week later. When adjustments accounted for the initial score and motivation, there was a statistically significant recall of items from the mind mapping group. For the follow up in 1 week, the ability to recall information resulted in a 24% increase compared with the initial evaluation.
The mind-mapping technique has also been used in an undergraduate nursing curriculum and implemented as an alternative to the usual care plans (Kern, Bush, & McCleish, 2006). These authors report on the first program cycle experience of using mind-mapped care plans in the clinical courses. Mind mapping was viewed as an alternative and innovative approach to traditional undergraduate nursing care plans by seasoned and novice faculty. Faculty and nurses in the clinical setting were educated on the concept of mind mapping, and the process was implemented and subsequently evaluated. The students acknowledged that mind mapping assisted them in appreciating a holistic view of the patient and in individualizing the plan of care and that it was a creative mechanism. Student satisfaction at the end of the program was 91% in agreement that mind mapping helped them with critical thinking.
The concept of radiant thinking led to the development of the mind map, a graphical technique to improve creative thinking and knowledge attainment. A mind map contains four essential characteristics: the subject as the central image, main themes that radiate from the subject, branches off the main theme, and a connected structure. The map uses colors, images, codes, and dimensions to amplify and enhance key ideas. This technique augments the visualization of relationships and links between concepts, which aids in information acquisition, data retention, and overall comprehension. Mind mapping combines the left cortical skill of words with the right cortical skill of images and allows the imagination to create a more visual way of recording information that can be recalled later (Buzan, 1996).
Boley (2008) showed the use of instructor-made mind maps as study aides and a form of note taking during class. Results revealed that students who used the mind-mapping technique scored higher on quizzes than those who did not. The study demonstrated evidence that students learned from studying the faculty-made mind maps, not just from the creation of them (Boley, 2008), and reinforces the utility of mind maps in NP education.
Applications to NP Education
Mind mapping can be incorporated into the NP curriculum in numerous ways. The maps activate the brain in synergy, helping students to connect different themes, encouraging spontaneous recall, and remembering key concepts (Buzan, 1996). Faculty can promote students’ use of mind maps for brainstorming, organizing ideas, taking notes, learning collaboratively, presenting, and studying. These applications can be used in problem-based learning for deciphering case studies, developing plans of care, evaluating health promotion activities, synthesizing disease processes, and formulating differential diagnoses. Mind mapping can be used to reinforce differential diagnoses and pathways to manage acute and chronic disease processes. In one class activity, during 12-lead electrocardiogram (EKG) interpretation, a central image of a rabbit with large ears was drawn to represent the “rabbit ear” pattern of the QRS complex. This idea branches off the central image to describe the cardiac axis, pathology, changes in cardiac intervals, and evaluation of ischemia. The drawing assisted students in remembering the concepts associated with an irregular EKG. The images may serve as study guides for examination preparation.
The first family nurse practitioner (FNP) course in the clinical sequence at our university focuses on health promotion and disease prevention. During class discussion focusing on care of the middle-aged adult, students were separated into small groups and were provided with a case study to map out and discuss patient-centered health screening and preventive care for individuals portrayed in the case. Each group synthesized the relevant information in the form of a mind map to present to their student colleagues. For the traditional classroom mind-mapping exercise, students were divided into small groups and given a 36-inch × 36-inch white sheet of paper, colored pencils, and markers and were allowed 20 to 40 minutes to brainstorm in groups and to devise the mind map based on the assigned case study. Online students were similarly broken into groups in break-out sessions and were allowed to either designate someone to draw the mind map directed by the group or sketch it together utilizing the white board feature of the online platform. A key component of the learning process occurs when presenters describe the mind maps to their student colleagues. Teaching key concepts through visual cues and images reinforces learning and information retrieval.
Mind-mapping activities allow students to use group discussion to solve complex problem-based case studies and to work collaboratively to identify symbols or objects that represent a key concept, idea, or theme that will promote learning. The example provided is “Rosemary,” a 56-year-old female client of a case study used during the health promotion and wellness FNP course. The students depicted various topics requiring discussion during Rosemary’s wellness visit. In addition, students were asked to address specific concerns raised during her visit (Figure).
Figure. Example of a mind map created by students while discussing middle-aged health screenings in a health promotion and wellness course of the family nurse practitioner program.
Mind maps have also been used when discussing different disease processes. In one FNP course, they were used to discuss and breakdown treatment of complex urologic conditions. The students were divided into groups, as previously described, and encouraged to draw representation of key concepts and ideas that were presented in their case study. Each group then presented their case study and treatment plan to their classmates. In this activity, the students were also required to find one evidence-based article to support their treatment plan.
There are several advantages of group mind-mapping exercises. The maps encourage students to work collaboratively in a group setting, display the concept or problem in a wide context, and encourage a deeper understanding of the content and discussion of the problem or scenario to which they are assigned (Buzan, 1996). This technique also allows for creativity in the classroom and encourages active learning. Mind maps broaden perspective and promote the conceptualization of relationships between different disease processes, while assisting the students to draw conclusions and think beyond the basic concepts.
Feasibility for Replication
Mind-mapping techniques are feasible for replication in a variety of educational settings. They can be used in a traditional classroom as discussed, as well as online. Introduction to mind-mapping concepts and selected examples of previous mind maps will ensure that students understand the purpose and utility of the tool prior to engaging in the exercise.
Although there are multiple ways to use mind maps within the NP curriculum, the idea is underutilized and underdeveloped. Faculty are frequently looking for innovative teaching strategies to engage students, facilitate learning, and reinforce ideas. In a time when students are being asked to expand their thinking, apply concepts, and synthesize new material, mind maps are a helpful teaching tool. Mind mapping is a creative way for students to engage in a unique way of learning that can expand memory recall and help create a new environment for processing information.
- Boley, D.A. (2008). Use of premade mind maps to enhance simulation learning. Nurse Educator, 33, 220–223 doi:10.1097/01.NNE.0000312223.97955.4c [CrossRef] .
- Buzan, T. & Buzan, B. (with ). (1996). The mind map book: How to use radiant thinking to maximize your brain’s untapped potential. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
- D’Antoni, A.V., Zipp, G.P., Olson, V.G. & Cahill, T.F. (2010). Does the mind map learning strategy facilitate information retrieval and critical thinking in medical students?BMC Medical Education, 10, 61–71 doi:10.1186/1472-6920-10-61 [CrossRef] .
- Farrand, P., Hussain, F. & Hennessy, E. (2002). The efficacy of the ‘mind map’ study technique. Medical Education, 36, 426–431 doi:10.1046/j.1365-2923.2002.01205.x [CrossRef] .
- Kern, C.S., Bush, K.L. & McCleish, J.M. (2006). Mind-mapped care plans: Integrating an innovative educational tool as an alternative to traditional care plans. Journal of Nursing Education, 45, 112–119.