Background: Cognitive style has been shown to influence the number, type, and organization of an individual's ideas. Concept maps are used regularly to assess students' organization and mastery of knowledge (their cognitive level) in engineering courses, yet very few studies have analyzed concept maps with respect to cognitive style. Purpose/Hypothesis: This study sought to investigate the relationship between cognitive style and concept mapping performance. Using principles of cognitive psychology and concept mapping assessment, we hypothesized that correlations between cognitive style and the selected concept map metrics are not statistically significant. Design/Method: Concept maps from 104 engineering undergraduates in a first-year design course were analyzed using 12 traditional scoring metrics and four holistic scoring metrics. One holistic metric was expanded to allow more detailed evaluation, bringing the number of map metrics to 20. Cognitive style was measured using the Kirton Adaption-Innovation Inventory, a psychometric instrument previously applied in engineering education contexts. Relationships between the concept map metrics and cognitive style were investigated using standard linear techniques. Results: Results show substantial support for the null hypothesis that cognitive style and concept mapping performance are uncorrelated. Conclusions: Engineering educators can be confident that the concept map metrics used here reflect cognitive level and not cognitive style. Cognitive style inventories and concept maps are likely measuring two separate aspects of an individual's cognition and are therefore complementary rather than duplicative.
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