Mind Mapping is a thinking tool created by Buzan (1993) based on his own personal learning experiences associated with memory retention. A typical Mind Map will contain words, visual images and lines in color radiating from the centre to branch out to express one's thoughts and ideas. It is simply a note-making device which could assist the learner to visualise his or her thoughts and ideas on paper. According to Buzan (2003), note making is different from note taking in the way in which the former refers to taking notes from one's own head; whereas the latter refers to taking notes from other people or books. There are a number of declaredbenefits associated with Mind Mapping: (1) creative in ideas exploration; (2) easy to apply; (3) interesting and motivating in engaging tasks; (4) efficient in managing study time; (5) effective in problem solving; and (6) helpful with memory retention (Buzan, 2002, 2003).
Since its creation, Mind Mapping has benefited people from a great variety of professions such as nursing (Tattersall, Watts, & Vernon, 2007), health education (Wickramasinghe, Widanapathirana, Kuruppu, Liyanage, & Karunathilake, 2008), business management (Ganglami, 2007), customer service (Williams, 2009), teaching (Yee, 2006) to list just a few. However, there is little reported in the literature focusing on the application of Mind Mapping in TBLT and its effectiveness in TBLT has not been explored. The purpose of this study is to evaluate effectiveness of Mind Mapping in TBLT to complete the tasks designed in CSL which could also be applicable to the teaching of other foreign or second languages.
Given the listed benefits of Mind Mapping in learning in general, one would assume that Mind Mapping should play a very effective role in assisting CSL learners to complete various tasks in TBLT. Taking this assumption as a starting point for an investigation, this study will examine effectiveness of Mind Mapping in CSL in the areas of task phase application, problem solving, note making, memory retention and learner motivation. To be more specific, this study intends to investigate and seek answers to the following questions:
1. In which phase of TBLT will Mind Mapping be more effective?
2. How effective could Mind Mapping help CSL learners in problem solving?
3. How effective is Mind Mapping in note making by CSL learners?
4. How effective could Mind Mapping assist CSL learners to remember things?
5. How much will Mind Mapping motivate CSL learners to complete TBLT tasks?
Sixty-four boys aged from 13-17 years old participated in this study. They were all from an independent K-12 boys' school in Melbourne, Australia and studied CSL as an elective offered in the school curriculum. Among these boys, 44% of them were from Junior High covering Year 7-8 and 56% of them from Senior High covering Year 9-12. 88% of the boys studied CSL for over 5 years priority to their enrollment into the advanced class.
The data were collected via a multiple-choice and open-ended questionnaire. The participants were asked to respond to 15 questions by following a five-point Likert scale to indicate their attitudes towards effectiveness of applying Mind Mapping in TBLT. The responses were anonymous and were collected in class at the end of a 14-day teaching circle in Term 3, 2008. The response rate was 100%.
Task design in CSL
The Chinese language tasks completed by the participants in this study were part of their language program covered in the first 10-day teaching cycle in Term 3, 2008. These tasks were designed based on Willis' (1998) model of Tasks Typology for TBL Task Design mainly for TESOL. In this model, Willis (1998) proposed six type of tasks of which each involves a different cognitive process with the first three (viz., Listing, Classifying/Ordering/Sorting and Comparing/Matching) being more challenging than the last three (viz., Problem-Solving, Projective Work and Experience-Sharing).
In this study, 8 tasks were designed covering all three phases of TBLT. Below is the summary of these tasks:
Topic:Use of laptop computers at home
Task for Pre-Task Phase:
(1) Brainstorming the most frequently-used Chinese character phrases for computers in general
Tasks for During-Task Phase:
(2) Listing as many good reasons as possible for families to have a laptop computer at home
(3) Classifying laptop computers in as many ways as possible, e.g., brand, colour, weight, price, function, etc.
(4) Comparing laptop with desktop computers used at home
(5) Problem-Solving: to think of as many solutions as possible to solve the problem of insufficient memory space of a laptop computer at home
(6) Questionnaire-Design: to design a questionnaire to survey the class in order to find out how many ways a laptop computer could be used at home
Tasks for Post-Task Phase:
(7) Story-Writing: to write a story about the use of laptop computer at home
(8) Story-Telling: to share stories with your classmates about solving a technical problem of your laptop computer at home.
Before the commencement of the main topic, all the participants were introduced the Mind-Mapping technique and were asked to use this thinking tool throughout their task completion in TBLT in Chinese. The participants were also asked to complete each required task in pairs within two teaching periods of 80 minutes' duration. Some tasks which were more cognitively challenging such as Tasks 6-8 listed above would need a triple-period (120 minutes) to complete. The time factor was considered in order to keep the level of difficulty of the chosen tasks comparable with the proficiency level of the participants who were all advanced CSL learners. The timed task or speeded' task referred to by Oxford (2006) could increase the degree of difficulty of the task. A rubric marking sheet was designed to assess the participants' outcomes covering the areas of relevance, accuracy, appropriateness and range at the word level and relevance, breadth, depth and appropriateness of structure a nd sequence at the sentence level (i.e., in story writing). Task 8 was assessed by checking each individual participant's pronunciation, intonation, control of tone marks, phrasing, fluency and understanding of the written stories.
DATA PRESNTATION AND DISCUSSION
The primary purpose of this study was to evaluate how effective Mind Mapping was in TBLT in the teaching of CSL to secondary school boys. When the participants were asked to rank 8 tasks associated with the three phases of TBLT in Chinese through the application of Mind Mapping during the task completion stage, the boys generated the following ranking order:
As indicated above, the top 4 tasks which helped the boys in this study the most with their tasks completion through Mind Mapping were: Brainstorming, Classifying, Listing and Comparing. Among these 4 tasks, Brainstorming is associated with Pre-Task Phase and the remaining three with During-Task Phase. This suggests that Mind Mapping would be most effective in Pre-Task Phase of TBLT as 80% of the boys surveyed ranked Brainstorming as the top effective task through Mind Mapping in TBLT. It's also evident that Mind Mapping is quite effective in During-Task Phase, because the next three tasks (i.e., Classifying, Listing and Comparing) were all associated with During-Task Phase. 75% of the boys in this study ranked Classifying 2nd in terms of effectiveness of Mind Mapping application; 64% of the boys ranked Listening in 3rd position, and 63% of the boys ranked Comparing in 4th position.
Table 1 above also indicates that Mind Mapping was not regarded as an effective tool in Post-Task Phase, because the rankings of the tasks of Story Writing and Story Telling which were directly associated with Post-Task Phase were not high enough to be regarded as effective. For instance, the task of Story Writing was ranked 5th and Story Telling only 8th, the lowest among all the 8 tasks by the boys surveyed.
It is worth noticing that although problem solving remains to be the main focus of TBLT, the boys in this study did not rely heavily on Mind Mapping to solve the problems presented in CSL. As shown in Table 1 above, effectiveness of Mind Mapping in the completion of the problem-solving task was only ranked 7th, the second lowest among the 8 tasks.
Note making is an area which Mind Mapping shows advantage. When the boys were asked if
Mind Mapping helped them make clearer notes in TBLT in Chinese, they generated the following responses:
As indicated above, 41% of the boys in this study neither agreed nor disagreed to the effective use of Mind Mapping in note making in TBLT. If we combined the figures given by those who agreed with those who strongly agreed, the approval rating only reached 48%; therefore, the level of effectiveness of note making in terms of clarity through Mind Mapping was not high.
When the participants were asked if Mind Mapping helped them shorten their time in note making during TBLT, the overall responses were not positive either as revealed in Table 3 below:
Clearly, the majority of the participants took a neutral stance on the issue regarding time efficiency of Mind Mapping in note making in TBLT in Chinese. They neither agreed nor disagreed generating a reading of 36%. This made the approval rating, even if the percentage of those agreed and those strongly agreed were combined, still below 40%. This suggests that Mind Mapping was not as effective as it seems to be in terms of note making in TBLT in Chinese.
Effectiveness of Mind Mapping in TBLT in terms of memory retention was measured by the participants' responses to the question of if Mind Mapping helped them remember things better. Table 4 below summarises their responses:
Again, the majority of the participants took a neutral stance on this issue. 58% of them neither agreed nor disagreed that Mind Mapping could help them with their memory retention in TBLT. Those who agreed or strongly agreed took up only 25% collectively and those who totally disagreed or strongly disagreed reached 17%. This could mean that Mind Mapping would not be an effective tool for the boys of this age group to enhance their memory retention during their completion of various CSL tasks in TBLT.
Whether Mind Mapping could motivate the boys of this age group to complete the tasks in TBLT is shown in Table 5 below:
As Table 5 above indicates, the majority of the boys in this study took a neutral stance on this issue as 50% of them neither agreed nor disagreed with this evaluation. Those who disagreed or strongly disagreed took up 28% and those who agreed took up 22% only. No percentage figures recorded in the Strongly Agree category. From this we could be certain that Mind Mapping would not be an important motivating factor to help the boys of this age group to complete the tasks in TBLT in Chinese.
When the participants were asked if they prefer to use Mind Mapping in TBLT in Chinese, the boys gave the following answers:
The above distribution shows that 66% of the boys of this age group would prefer Mind Mapping in TBLT in Chinese. This supports the point made earlier in this paper that Mind Mapping is regarded by the boys of this age group as an effective tool to complete the assigned tasks in TBLT in Chinese, but mainly in Pre-Task and During-Task Phase.
When the participants were asked to specify what they like the most about Mind Mapping in TBLT, they listed the following:
Table 7 above displays eight reasons of why the boys of this group liked to use Mind Mapping in TBLT. Among them, "Easy to categorise items", "Easy to read" and "Organising ideas better" remain to be the top-3 reasons on the list. These would help confirm that Mind Mapping is effective in helping the boys of this age group with their organisation in completing various CSL tasks in TBLT.
When being asked to identify the negative elements of Mind Mapping in TBLT in Chinese, the participants responded below:
Based on the figures shown in Table 8 above, there were five negative reasons about Mind Mapping in TBLT and the top negative reason was associated with the issue of time efficiency in applying Mind Mapping in TBLT. 50% of the participants responded that Mind Mapping was too time-consuming in their attempt to complete the tasks in TBLT in Chinese. This correlates well with the results presented in Table 3 earlier that Mind Mapping was not an effective tool in TBLT as far as note-making time is concerned.
It has been found in this study that Mind Mapping is most effective in Pre-Task Phase of TBLT as 80% of the boys surveyed have supported this claim. Mind Mapping is also quite effective in During-Task Phase since over 60% of the boys surveyed have contributed to this claim. This study has also found that Mind Mapping is least effective in Post-Task Phase as the ranking of the tasks associated with this phase are low and only less than 34% of the boys have responded positively to this claim. Overall, the boys aged from 13-17 years old still support the use of Mind Mapping in TBLT in Chinese as 66% of them have indicated that they would prefer to use this thinking tool in TBLT in Chinese.
In addition, Brainstorming, Classifying, Listing and Comparing have been regarded as the most popular task types among the boys surveyed as far as the use of Mind Mapping is concerned. They believe that Mind Mapping works much better in completing these types of tasks in CSL, whereas Story Writing, Questionnaire Designing, Problem Solving and Story Telling are the least popular types of tasks among these boys.
It has also been found in this study that Mind Mapping is effective in the area of note making, but the degree of its effectiveness in this area is not as high as it is declared to be in the area of learning in general. This study has identified two most negative reasons of why the boys aged from 13-17 did not enjoy the most about using Mind Mapping in completing various tasks in CSL in TBLT. These two negative reasons are (1) too time-consuming; and (2) too messy.
Although the main focus of TBLT is on problem solving through meaningful communication in the target language, Mind Mapping seems not effective in helping learners in problem solving, because the boys in this study ranked this task the second lowest among the eight tasks completed via Mind Mapping.
Mind Mapping also appears to be ineffective in memory retention as only 25% of the boys surveyed in this study supported the view that this technique helped them remember things better while completing various tasks in TBLT in Chinese.
Mind Mapping seems not effective in motivating the boys in this study to complete various tasks in TBLT in Chinese, because only 22% of the boys surveyed supported the view that Mind Mapping motivated them to carry out various tasks in CSL in TBLT.
It is evident that Mind Mapping works effectively in Pre-Task and During-Task Phase of TBLT in Chinese where the main focus is on meaning and language use, but this is not the case in Post-Task Phase of TBLT where the primary focus is on language form. This may help us determine that Mind Mapping would help learners how to learn and improve their organisational skills in learning the target language, but it is not necessarily helpful with their mastering of language form.
Ineffectiveness of Mind Mapping as shown in memory retention and learner motivation in this study might not be inconclusive if a large-scale investigation were conducted among secondary school girls or students from co-ed schools which may produce a different outcome in these areas. Whether this is true or not remains to be a topic for further investigation for those who might be interested.
Nevertheless, the investigation of effectiveness of Mind Mapping in TBLT would not only apply to CSL, but also to the teaching of EFL and ESL or any other second languages. The implication this study has could be greater if much could be done based on what has been initiated in CSL.