Consequence Mapping

Education Services / L’équipe des services d’éducation
14 March 2014

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What is Consequence Mapping?

A Consequence Map is a graphic organizer that requires students to think about the potential long-term impacts of a real or imaginary event, issue, problem, trend, or developing technology. Consequence mapping encourages deeper thinking about interrelationships and cause and effect.

Why use it?

  • To have students think about the potential consequences, both intended and unintended, of an event, action, issue, problem, trend, or developing technology
  • To develop systems thinking and critical thinking skills
  • To help students identify and understand cause and effect relationships

How do I use it?

  • Choose one or more pieces of CurioCity content (articles, videos, timelines, etc.) for students to read or view that present information about an event, trend or decision that can be considered in terms of its future impact and potential consequences.
  • Choose a key question to form the core of the consequence map (e.g., “What would be the impact of replacing all gasoline-powered road vehicles in Canada with electric-powered road vehicles?”).
  • Choose a time frame for examining the consequences of the key question that will allow students to investigate long-term impacts (for example, 5, 10, 25, 50, or 100 years).
  • Write a statement derived from the key question (e.g., “Replacement of gasoline road vehicles with electric road vehicles”) in the centre of a piece of chart paper, on a chalkboard or whiteboard, projected with an LCD projector, etc.
  • Brainstorm with the students a number of immediate (or primary) consequences arising from the key question. As the consequences are brainstormed, record those alongside the key question, connected to the key question with a single arrow (see image above). For instance, a primary consequence of the adoption of electric vehicles in Canada would be a vastly increased demand for electricity.consequence map section
  • Choose a single primary consequence and then brainstorm the secondary consequences that arise from that. For instance, the vastly increased demand in electricity in Canada could lead to an increase in the cost of electricity and a demand for construction of new electricity generating plants. These would be secondary consequences of the adoption of electric vehicles in Canada; they were not direct consequences of the adoption of electric vehicles, but rather a result of one of the primary consequences. Record these with a pair of arrows connecting them to the primary consequence that they are a consequence of. Each of those consequences may then have their own consequences (e.g., new electricity generating plants would require enhancements to the electrical grid, and could result in increased greenhouse gas emissions if those plants burn fossil fuels); use three arrows to connect those consequences to the secondary consequence that they are a consequence of. A good consequence map analogy to use is that tipping the first domino (e.g., large-scale adoption of electric vehicles in Canada) produces effects far down a line (or lines) of dominoes.
  • Divide class into groups of 3-4 students, assigning each group a primary consequence for which they will brainstorm secondary and tertiary consequences .
  • When complete, have each group add its consequences to the main consequence map. Discuss the results.

Tips for success

  • Choose a key question that has positive, neutral, and negative consequences, both intended and unintended, in a number of areas (e.g., economic, environmental, societal, political).
  • Ensure students understand the concepts of cause and effect. If necessary, practice determining cause and effect relationships with students.
  • Ensure that students understand the difference between primary, secondary, and tertiary consequences.
  • Ensure that students understand the difference between a consequence (something that occurs as a direct result of the central question) and a factor (something which is affected by the central question). For instance, “reduced greenhouse gas emissions” would be a consequence, but “greenhouse gases” would be a factor.
  • Have a large area to record consequences in a fluid way, so that students do not feel constrained by space.
  • Good copies of the templates can be transcribed into a Consequence Mapping Template (see below) which is available in Word, PDF and Power Point.


  • Students could research secondary and tertiary consequences outside of class, either individually or in groups.
  • Students could, both individually or in groups, develop their own key question and form a consequence map from that.
  • Students could initially think individually about secondary and tertiary consequences, then pair up to share their lists before forming groups for brainstorming.
  • Have students present their Consequence Maps in different forms (poster, PowerPoint Presentation, electronic whiteboard, etc.).


  • Students can categorize the consequences on the map (e.g., environmental, economic, etc.) and indicate whether they consider each consequence to be positive, negative, or neutral in its impact and intended or unintended. This can be done either individually or through class discussion.
  • Students could write position papers about the key question, arguing that it is either a net positive or a net negative and justifying their position based on their assessment of all of the consequences (see above).


Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 6, Issue 1, Foreword (Jun., 2005)Consequence Map. (accessed  Dec. 16, 2016).

Toronto District School Board. Eco Schools 2014/15. Consequence Mapping. P. 125 (accessed Dec. 16, 2016).

Create-Your-Own Consequence Map

Starting Points Using Consequence Maps

Ready-to-Use Consequence Mapping Templates

  • A fractious energy debate [.doc] [.pdf]
  • Does living near high-voltage power lines cause cancer? [.doc] [.pdf]
  • Electronic cigarettes: Healthy alternative or smoke and mirrors? [.doc] [.pptx]
  • Fukushima Three Years After [.doc] [.pdf] .pptx]
  • Hybrid vigour: Stronger than the sum of your parts [.doc] [.pdf]
  • Should scientists clone extinct species? [.doc] [.pdf]
  • Should we let Pandas go extinct? [.doc] [.pdf]

Completed Consequence Mapping Samples

  • Environmental Impact of Urban Sprawl [.pdf]
  • Celiac Disease: When you really need to stay gluten-free [.pdf

Education Services / L’équipe des services d’éducation

This content is provided through Let's Talk Science's Education Services team.

Ce contenu est fourni par l'équipe des services d'éducation de Parlons sciences.

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