Integrating Concept Maps into a Medical Student Oncology Curriculum


Expanding frontiers of knowledge have prompted medical schools to reconsider how best to promote learning in the face of information overload. Concept mapping (CM) promotes knowledge retention and integration. Students have perceived CM positively in prior studies, but the feasibility and utility of integrating CM into a medical student oncology curriculum as a learning and assessment tool have not been described. At the University of California, San Francisco, 152 medical students in a second-year hematology/oncology course produced concept maps about a single cancer type over 4 weeks. We collected student evaluations about CM. Two of three graders independently scored each map using a standard rubric. We compared CM scores with USMLE Step 1 scores and clerkship grades using regression. All students produced a concept map. Student perception was mixed, and students provided feedback to improve CM utility as a learning tool. Grading was feasible, and inter-rater reliability was high. CM scores did not predict USMLE Step 1 scores or clerkship grades. CM was feasible as a learning tool, and we present strategies based on student feedback and literature review to improve utility. CM was feasible and reliable as an assessment tool; additional validity evidence may improve utility. Future studies should explore whether CM integrated into medical student oncology curricula early, serially, and collaboratively, with iterative practice and feedback, may predict meaningful learning and performance outcomes.

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Correspondence to Sam Brondfield.

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The UCSF Institutional Review Board approved this study as exempt from review.

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The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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Supplemental Figure 1

A. Scatterplot of concept map scores displaying inter-rater reliability between authors G.H. and S.B., with a Pearson correlation coefficient of 0.90 (n = 71 concept maps). B. Scatterplot of concept map scores displaying inter-rater reliability between authors G.H. and A.S., with a Pearson correlation coefficient of 0.91 (n = 68 concept maps). (PPTX 87 kb)

(PPTX 87 kb)

Supplemental Figure 2

Box plot displaying scores from all graded student concept maps (n = 141). (PPTX 65 kb)

Supplemental Figure 3

A. Scatterplot of USMLE Step 1 scores over concept map scores (n = 141 students) with best-fit regression line (r = − 0.02). B. Scatterplot of mean clerkship grades over concept map scores (n = 125 students) with best-fit regression line (r = 0.04). (PPTX 122 kb)

(PPTX 125 kb)

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Brondfield, S., Seol, A., Hyland, K. et al. Integrating Concept Maps into a Medical Student Oncology Curriculum. J Canc Educ 36, 85–91 (2021).

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  • Concept map
  • Concept mapping
  • Oncology
  • Medical student
  • Curriculum
  • Meaningful learning
  • Cognitive integration