The design and use of a mapping tool as a baseline means of indentifying an organisation's active networks

Fox, Alison; McCormick, Robert; Procter, Richard and Carmichael, Patrick (2007). The design and use of a mapping tool as a baseline means of indentifying an organisation's active networks. International Journal of Research and Method in Education, 30(2) pp. 127–147.



As part of the Learning How to Learn in Classrooms, Schools and Networks Project, a mapping tool and associated interviews were devised to capture practitioners' views of the networks associated with their schools and local authorities (LAs). This article discusses the development and use of the mapping tool, including its trialing, and the first stages of analysis. The task was open-ended asking respondents to represent with whom and how their organization communicates. LA advisers and officers offered an LA-based perspective and both headteachers and school project coordinators offered a school-based perspective. Forty-eight maps have been collected from 18 schools and 5 LAs. Theoretically, the development of the mapping tool draws on three main areas of work—sociograms dating back to the 1930s, social network analysis, currently being used by Finnish researchers, and the work of Mavers et al. in mapping children's representations of the virtual world of computers. Initial discussion of the range of map structures drawn by respondents is presented. In all cases it was possible to extract from the maps a list of people, groups, places and events, termed nodes, and information about how these nodes were connected, termed links. Most maps were organized around one or, in some cases, two central nodes. Descriptive analysis of both nodes and links has been used both to give respondents feedback on their maps, incorporating them in the validation of further analysis, and for comparative purposes. Respondents were largely positive about both the mapping task as a useful, reflective task to focus on their networking activities and the validity of the feedback given to them. Map representations are also explored from a spatial perspective with reference to ideas drawn from Sack and Castells. Reference is made to networked learning communities as supported and developed by the National College of School Leadership and also the Government's Virtual Education Action Zone initiative, examples of which were represented in the project.

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