Constructing a Concept Map of Truth

Purpose: What will I learn about students' thinking from this?

What is truth? What does it mean for a claim or idea to be true? How does one figure out whether something is true? This introductory activity raises these issues for discussion in class as well as providing a glimpse into students' thinking about truth.

Launch: How do I begin the activity?

Ask students to make a concept map or mind map that captures their ideas about truth. Students begin the map by writing Truth in the center and then connect out from there with lines attaching to other ideas they associate with truth, and connect further from there.

The concept map template [link] provides a prompt for students to help them get started. You can read this to students and mention it as one way they might approach constructing their maps or duplicate it and hand it out. The prompt is is not an explicit direction that students have to follow. Some will pick up on the prompt and others will not. By keeping the task open-ended, you will find out more about what is important to students.

Follow up: How do I conclude the activity?

After you have given students time to create their individual maps, you might want to put them in small groups. There, they can share their ideas and create a larger collective mind map. Alternatively, you can have a class discussion in which you collect and chart students' ideas.

Many teachers like to introduce the Truth Map shortly after having students complete their own maps. You can present the Truth Map to the class by connecting it to students' ideas and thoughts about truth. Tell students that the five circles of truth plus the warning "stars" represent some key actions people take when they are grappling with questions of truth. Or you can ask students to think and talk about how their ideas link to the areas of the truth map. For details, see the section that includes introducing the Truth Map

Be sure and collect students' individual maps to look at and discuss. Also, you and students may find them valuable as you round out the Truth Ideal in a few weeks. Often students do the same activity and it's interesting to compare how their maps have become more sophisticated and elaborate, signaling conceptual development in their ideas about truth. So save the maps!

Timing: How much time should I allow?

To complete the individual maps, students will need about 10-15 minutes. To have a class discussion or create group maps, you will need 20-40 minutes.

Assessment: What should I look for in students' responses?

Constructing a concept map of truth is not an easy task. Don't be surprised if students' maps are sparse and contain a lot of situation specific references. Some particular features to look for:

  • Notice the language students use to talk about truth.
  • Review students' responses to see what factors they consider in deciding if something is or isn't true? Do they suggest different kinds of evidence? Are they interested in both sides of the case? Are they alert to the possibility of bias, as in rumors or statements from people with an agenda?
  • Identify what kinds of issues and circumstances confound students and make it difficult for them to think well about truth. You might want to look for these types of situations to confront throughout the module.
  • What questions and puzzles do students have? What issues most concern them?

(this will download a blank template for the concept map activity that can be used in your classroom)