I'd like to follow-up Walter's recommendation on the value of Concept
Mapping for enabling deeper learning.
We are interested in requirements elicitation across large organisations,
and continually encounter the "problem" of different people have different
mental models (actually this is only a "problem" from an information
systems perspective ...). Our requirements elicitation techniques have
included structured and unstructured interviews, workflow analysis,
workplace observation, screen mockups ....
Our psychologist friends introduced us to the concept mapping technique,
and we have used this technique on several studies ranging from a small
team of experts, to larger (40+ people), distributed teams with diverse
The major advantages of the concept mapping technique are:
- the concepts are defined in the users terms
- the relationships between the concepts are defined in the users terms
- the result of the concept mapping process is a visual representation of the
We found tape recording a concept mapping session an effective way of
capturing everything that happened (note it can take up to 6 hours to
effectively analyse a one hour concept mapping session). The neat thing
about concept mapping is that during your interview you can get
participants to draw an initial map, and then you can point to pieces of
it and ask them to explain things in more detail - we found that this is
far more effective than simply using verbal pointers.
We've performed concept mapping with both butchers paper and whiteboards,
and found that the scrolling process of electronic whiteboards interferes
with the concept mapping process. Whereas with paper, you can have all the
concept maps immediately on display for referral.
Our experience has shown that conducting a 90 minute concept mapping
session with each of the domain experts in a small team of 4 people gave
us a level of domain understanding equivalent to a month of structured and
unstructured interviews with a similar size team (OK this is _very_
subjective, but I think you get my point).
I encourage you to investigate concept mapping for your own purposes.
-- John O'Neill DSTO C3 Research Centre, Australia email: firstname.lastname@example.org