Using concept maps in the classroom may offer a means of measuring student understanding and intellectual growth throughout the semester. It may also provide me with a means of measuring instructional effectiveness... effectively.
With concept maps, its not merely enough to identify and remember concepts, taxonomies, or facts. You need to be able to identify the relationship between them. True understanding of concepts comes from integrating an idea with all of the other ideas in one's mind. Concept maps provide a perfect means of capturing this integration by requesting relationships in the form of verbs. So for example, a "table has legs". Table and legs are the concepts. "has" is the relationship between them.
After creating my 5 year goals, I have been looking for a way to measure conceptual understanding of material to compare instructional effectiveness. With concept maps, I should have the means to do so. For reach course module, I will need to develop master concept maps - which I then compare with student concept maps as they write them. Grading of concepts maps can be accomplished by ensuring important concepts are included, relationships between concepts is properly identified, and holistic understanding is demonstrated. Furthermore, I can look at the average grade from a class and compare it to the average grade from other classes to determine how various techniques influence conceptual understanding.