We describe the use of concept maps within a 4-week nanotechnology survey course, designed for first-year undergraduate students. Because of the extremely short time frame of the class, students would be inundated with an overwhelming number of new concepts and definitions. Hence, we employed concept mapping to increase student retention and ascertain the level of student conceptual understanding for each topic covered in the course. In contrast to most studies that introduce concept mapping via posthoc interviews, we report the use of student-generated concept maps. Examples of concept maps are provided from students who were confused by various subtopics, as well as those who demonstrated a more lucid conceptual understanding. In addition, we found a significant correlation between average concept map scores and the final exam grades for students.

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