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Ian Kinchin

Enhanced PowerPoint with concept maps


By Ian Kinchin

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.

Professor Ian Kinchin is Head of the Department of Higher Education at the University of Surrey, and is also a member of the SRHE Governing Council. This post was first published on Ian’s personal blog, and is reproduced here with the author’s permission.


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.

Author: SRHE News Blog

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2 thoughts on “Enhanced PowerPoint with concept maps

  1. Ian, this blog would be helped by an example of a concept map!

  2. James, good point, we’ve taken selected pieces from Ian’s blog – here’s an an example of a concept map referred to in one of his earlier pieces

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