[17] Mind mapping as a summative exam at Masters level



Mind mapping as a summative exam at Masters level

Author (s)

Dr Ruth Hopkins Post Graduate Programme Director Public Health and Health Promotion
College of Human and Health Sciences


Mind maps developed by Buzan and Buzan (2000) are diagrammatic representations of semantic or other connections, presented with the key ‘topic bubble’ in a centre radiating outwards in an organic manner. They have been shown to be most effective when used within a repertoire of teaching aids as a learning tool to summarise complex theoretical concepts.

Mind mapping as a summative examination was introduced into Health Protection (HP); a module that sits within the MSc Public Health and Health Promotion (PHHP), because the subject is not a set of linear concepts, but presents multi dimensionally. Each concept is linked or directly related to another, which affect outcomes when addressing health protection incidents. The introduction of a mind mapping summative examination was seen as a means to allow students to present complex inter-relationships between processes and procedures involved in outbreak and emergency preparedness, resilience and response (EPPR) visually.

Students on the MSc PHHP come from a variety of backgrounds ranging from medical and allied health professions to environmental health practitioners. The programme has attracted new graduates with biomedical and sports science backgrounds. It is also attractive to International students from the USA, Canada, the Arab world, Sub Saharan African countries and China. For some students English may not be their first language, and it was felt that resorting to a linear means of summative assessment such as traditional essay writing may not assess the student’s ability to apply key concepts of outbreak or emergency environmental protection response and management in bringing a health protection incident to a successful conclusion. The use of mind maps as a part of a summative examination presented students with the opportunity to present detailed visualisations of their knowledge acquisition and application.

The summative examination was marked taking into account the structure and relationship between nodes, and a holistic overview of the map. The ecological approach to marking was not reliant on node and link counting, but was more a judgement on students processes involved in tackling the scenario presented. In spite of the variability of mind maps in this summative examination, the detailed associated narratives linked to the maps showed degrees of homogeneity in detailing the rationale behind linking nodes. With regards to reliability, the idiosyncratic nature of the mind maps presented challenges for markers particularly when some students presented overly complex representations of the applications of knowledge to the specific health protection scenario.

When comparing student’s attainment for the HP summative examination against marks achieved for the other 7 modules in the MSc PHHP, the results were comparative to their average marks with no negative or positive deviation.

Student feedback has evaluated this method of summative assessment positively, and the external examiner commented “this has worked well and appears to have tested students’ knowledge and understanding effectively, particularly the complexity of outbreak control”. This demonstrates the value in being more creative in developing innovative methods of summative assessment within a programme, and moving away from traditional essay writing.


Session Outline

The presentation will be delivered in a lecture style supported with a power point presentation. The presentation will discuss why mind mapping used as a summative examination to assess students’ knowledge acquisition and application is as rigorous as traditional essay writing, which may be seen as testing ‘essay writing’ skills. Delegates will be presented with a health protection scenario and asked to present brief visual presentations of factors that need to be considered when bringing the scenario/incident to a satisfactory conclusion. This will demonstrate the variety of perspectives that may be employed when considering how to deal with a health protection issue.

Key Words

mind-mapping, examination,  health, protection

Key Messages

Public health, health protection, health promotion and environmental protection are multi-dimensional in nature and as such need a more visual means of presenting the holistic perspective necessary to bring an outbreak or incident to a satisfactory conclusion.

The logical or illogical progression through nodes and linkages really tests student understanding of complex theoretical concepts. Mind mapping can be applied to many other disciplines to assess learning outcomes. However marking these exams may be more subjective in nature and are more time consuming.

Marks achieved in this summative examination do not deviate from average marks achieved by students in other modules within the MSc Public Health and Health Promotion Programme.



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