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The Use of Concept Maps for Collaborative Knowledge Construction

October 8, 2009


This paper describes the development of methodologies for using multidimensional concept mapping as a data collection method, and as a medium to stimulate the creation and dissemination of collaborative knowledge. These concept maps were collected during an initial series of iGatherings organised by MirandaNet Fellows[1]. in the context of work-based learning for education professionals. The first stage of this programme was designed on the MirandaMod model[2], an informal, loosely structured unconference[3] of like-minded educators to share ideas about the use of technology to inspire others.

This first stage of the research project aimed to

• develop a scoring system for collaborative multimodal concept maps relating to an analysis of the potential effectiveness for identifying concept development and the formation of praxis .

• post preliminary resources on the web as an example of the knowledge creation planned for Stage Two from September to March 2010.

The web-based program MindMeister [4]and Inspiration[5] were compared as the vehicle for this study for the creation and dissemination of knowledge, rather than simply for data collection.

Existing tools that have been used to analyse concept maps have either focused on a map’s content in order to identify the level of a student’s understanding of a particular area of knowledge (Ruiz-Primo, 2000; Park & Calvo, 2008), or have examined the complexity of the map itself (Mavers, Somekh et al., 2002, Harrison et al, 2002). Whilst these tools provided data about the complexity of the maps that had been created, they failed to provide data that related to the process of knowledge construction. They also concentrate on the learning of individuals rather than on collaborative learning.

What was needed, therefore, was a system that enabled the process of knowledge construction to be tracked, identified and analysed as it takes place within a professional group. The functionality of the program enabled the elements of collaborative mapping process to be identified, together with the identity of those involved in the process.

In order to develop a new scoring methodology data sets were compiled that could be analysed across a number of dimensions. As a result of the analysis seven types of collaborative learning activities were identified in the creation of the maps: Adding; Editing; Inserting; Moving; Removing; Renaming and Repositioning. Each activity could be related to the relevant mapmaker, and the inter-related processes of constructing the map and building knowledge could be identified. The sequences of mapping actions were graphed, and the resulting graphs plotted the frequency of each activity across the progress of the creation of the maps. The graphs showed the inter-relationship of actions, particularly those of inserting, renaming and repositioning – the key activities in the process of knowledge creation.

The analysis of the maps in this initial stage indicates the potential effectiveness of the methodology in building a picture of the collaborative knowledge process, rather than the existing models of either content analysis of map complexity.

It can be further said that the complexity of the maps is directly related to the number of contributions by, and interactions of, the mapmakers. This initial study has revealed the complexity of the task of finding an effective methodology that will reflect the multiple perspectives from which this data is drawn.  The preliminary outcomes raise a series of questions:

How effective are collaborative concept maps in creating a record of an event?

How do collaborative concept maps stimulate thinking and debate in a space and dimension other than the face-to-face environment or the virtual FlashMeeting?

How do collaborative concept maps facilitate new thinking that can support professional development and feed back into the institution?

In the next stage these questions will be used to inform a system for a more extensive evaluation of these multidimensional concept maps. The analysis of their effectiveness in identifying concept development and the formation of praxis in the context of work-based learning for education professionals will be part of this longer study, which should tell us more about the nature of collaborative professional learning.

[1] Last accessed 18th August

[2] Last accessed 18th August

[3] Last accessed 18th August


[5] Last accessed 18th August

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