Enhanced PowerPoint with concept maps

The problems associated with the poor use of PowerPoint in lectures have been well documented – in particular, the over-reliance of bullet points which misrepresent the content being delivered and often result in tedious lectures in which the lecturer just reads the slides to the audience. Concept maps have a very different underlying philosophy and their use in PowerPoint can help to overcome some of the issues raised by bullet points:

Ppt cmap table A Comparison of affordances for learning between concept maps and bullet points.

Whilst inserting a concept map onto a PowerPoint slide does not automatically ensure that lecturers suddenly start to engage with their teaching, it can (under guidance) offer a different approach to the lecture that many colleagues have simply never thought about.

I have watched so many lectures in which the ritual of the bullet point has been performed (sometimes by colleagues who should simply know better). When colleagues have started to experiment with radical (i.e. not bullet point) formats, it has often been the case that their body language changes too. I don’t know why, but bullet points often carry the hidden message to the presenter that they should stand still at the front of the room, and even talk to the screen (as if offering praise to the bullet point!). Concept maps that have been constructed by the presenter seem to loosen the tie between the screen and the presenter. By the time of the lecture, the presenter has become comfortable with the content (they have to engage with it to draw the concept map) and so seem happier to engage with the audience and invite critique of the material on the screen, rather than require passive acceptance that it is just the right answer.

Some readers may wonder why I still bang on about my hatred of bullet points. While I continue to see presentations killed by poor PowerPoint presentations that fail to engage the audience or to adequately represent the content being taught, I will continue to rant.


Kinchin, I.M. and Cabot, L.B. (2007) Using concept mapping principles in PowerPoint. European Journal of Dental Education, 11(4): 194 – 199.

Kinchin, I.M., Chadha, D. and Kokotailo, P. (2008) Using PowerPoint as a lens to focus on linearity in teaching. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 32(4): 333 – 346.

Simon, J. (2015) PowerPoint and concept maps: A great double act. Accounting Education: an international journal, 24(2): 146 – 151.


2 thoughts on “Enhanced PowerPoint with concept maps

  1. Jacqueline Vanhear

    Thank you for this blog 🙂 I cannot but help to show that I cannot but agree more! I too am so often bored by seeing poor powerpoints and I feel that the use of Concept Maps have added value to my delivery of whatever content/message it is. I would like to share with you that this year I have explored the use of Concept Maps through PREZI….and I feel it helped me to improve. I feel that through this method both myself and the audience are more engaged, however, this is based on my perception and feedback from the audience. The fact is that PREZI allows me to emphasise the concepts I would like to emphasise more effectively and visually 🙂


  2. Arnaldo Luís Santos Pereira

    I am also a “bullet point hater” but even more so I hate the seemingly solitary presenter that disregards the presence of the audience and seems to be discovering for the first time his own (I hope) presentation with his back to us.
    In corporations a frequent use of presentations, with or without Power Point help, is to convince the group of either a certain solution or a certain diagnosis.
    The presenter’s personal capabilities to transmit credibility are of course an important element in the presentations success. He should include facts (knowledge) but also provoke the right empathy (feeling) for his point of view.
    I agree, and this is new for me, that on the factual side if he uses a good and SIMPLE Concept Map he will have a winner presentation with emotional underpinning. But I believe it really should be the type of Concept Map that gives a general framework to the knowledge side or else it may become a new “Bullet”.
    If he uses a Power Point presentation not so much as a listing of facts but more so as to provoke feelings that will motivate his audience to become interested wouldn’t this be an example of using an accessory tool (multimedia) effectively but within its limitations?
    Thank you for ranting and raving. I also liked your “Do you take these PowerPoint slides, to have and to hold …”



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