This submission presents a portfolio of 50 outputs (3 books, 7 book chapters and 40 journal articles) that were published between 2000 – 2020. This accompanying narrative offers a frame for these outputs to place them in the context of the wider literature and to highlight connections and developments in the underpinning thought processes. Here I exploit the Deleuzian figuration of the rhizome to present the portfolio to emphasise the non- linear nature of this body of work and provide a novel conceptual framework for analysis.
This corpus emerged from my initial exploration of Novakian concept mapping as a tool to support and document learning. From my early studies that built on the dominant discourse of the field, I examined concept mapping as a study aid. From this my interests diverged into the visualisation of expertise and the implications of variation in the structure of knowledge as depicted by students and as promoted in the curriculum.
I started to use concept mapping to explore educational theory and have combined the tool that is strongly linked to its origins in educational psychology (particularly the work of David Ausubel) with other theoretical positions that might inform teaching in higher education. These have included ideas from the sociology of education (particularly the work of Basil Bernstein and Karl Maton); ideas from evolutionary Biology (Stephen Jay Gould’s concept of exaptation); ideas from health sciences (particularly the work on Salutogenesis by Anton Antonovsky), and the post-structuralist ideas of Gilles Deleuze (especially the concept of the rhizome). These ideas offer an opportunity to revise and refresh the assumptions that underpinned Joe Novak’s work on concept mapping – that might increase the level of criticality in continuing research.
This work raises questions about the methodological conservatism of the field of concept mapping (and perhaps of higher education research more broadly). The observed methodological and conceptual conservatism of the concept mapping literature is seen as a consequence of its linear (arborescent) development from science education. Through this work, the reader can trace the development of the researcher from his roots in Biological Sciences towards a greater appreciation of post-structuralist perspectives – challenging the conservatism mentioned above.
By adopting a salutogenic gaze on pedagogic frailty we can reframe the problem in terms of ‘pedagogic health’:
Kinchin, I.M. (2019) The salutogenic management of pedagogic frailty: A case of educational theory development using concept mapping. Education Sciences,9(2), 157. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci9020157
This set of three books provides a comprehensive introduction to the application of concept mapping to reveal the knowledge structures that need to be explored in the examination of pedagogic frailty (2016), the exploration of the theory underpinning pedagogic frailty and how this relates to other areas of educational research (2017), and a series of practical case studies of academics from across the disciplines who have used the frailty model as a framework for their own reflective narratives (2018).
Reviews of the 2018 volume:
“Concept mapping and the pedagogic frailty model form a powerful combination to drive reflection upon professional development, which is critical to respond rapidly to changes in the higher education system. This book is a must-read for any academic who wishes to become a resilient teacher.”
Prof. Paulo Correia (University of São Paulo, Brazil).
“Increasing pedagogic frailty is one of the biggest risks for academic quality in universities. This book gives a systematic, compact and research-based view about contemporary issues related to university teaching. It helped me to see the problems in my own university, and more importantly, it gave me ideas for solving them. I recommend this book to everybody who is involved in teaching at universities – from novice teachers to professors, administrators and senior managers.”
Can we plan a paper to create a clear structure? Or does it emerge through the writing?
Whilst check lists may be helpful to ensure that you have uploaded all the elements of a paper through a submission portal , I am not convinced they are a good way of helping to structure a paper under construction.
A recent paper by Simper et al (2016) suggests that a concept mapping frame can be helpful in constructing a narrative and in developing creativity. Drawing on their work I have tried to think of a possible frame that might help to address some of the weaknesses in papers that I have reviewed for publication in journals. I’d be interested to know if anyone finds it helpful, or if they have a similar tool that they already use.
The idea is that you consider the elements in blue, and add your responses within the white boxes. This might even help to structure a visual abstract that some journals are now inviting.
Simper, N., Reeve, R. & Kirby, J.R. (2016) Effects of concept mapping on creativity in photo stories. Creativity Research Journal, 28(1): 46 – 51.
There are some serious misconceptions in the literature on concept mapping that threaten to undermine the authenticity and potential of the tool.
When reading research papers on concept mapping, alarm bells are immediately triggered when the authors introduce their work with statements about “concept maps as a classroom strategy“. A concept map is not a teaching strategy any more than a blackboard or a textbook are teaching strategies. They are teaching tools that need to be embedded into a teaching strategy. So with the textbook, you could tell the class to go away and read the book, and come back in two weeks with any questions. Or you could sit and read through the book with the class. Or you could teach the class using all sorts of innovative classroom interventions and simply use the book for background reading. Three very different strategies using the same tool. It is the same with concept mapping. The teacher has to be clear how the tool is going to be used and how that will complement other learning activities.
Other generic and unqualified statements that can often be found include: “concept maps promote higher order thinking skills“. This statement is like saying that classes promoted higher order thinking skills. Excellent classes can promote higher order thinking skills, but poorly constructed and badly delivered classes will not. In the same way, poor use of concept maps will not promote higher order thinking skills. Some researchers seem to make the assumption that you can drop a quick concept mapping activity into any poorly constructed lesson and it will be miraculously converted into a high quality teaching episode. This is clearly nonsense. If the concept mapping activity does not complement the teaching environment and if the students have little idea why they are making a map, then the outcome is unlikely to be positive. The application if concept mapping needs to be planned and purposeful if it is to have a meaningful outcome.
So research papers need to be explicit about the nature of the concept mapping activity that has been undertaken with a class and the quality of the mapsthat have been used. We also need to know the details of how the maps were used. Some research papers simply state that students made maps and related to subsequent test scores. But making the map is not he end point. How were the maps used? What feedback was given and how was the map edited and refined so that the student engaged with the ideas represented? It is not always clear within the research literature what the students did after they were engaged in the concept mapping activity. How did they reflect upon their maps and how did they move forward to their next learning episode? Many papers refer to ‘an intervention’ and how the students did as a result of that intervention. But what were the wider gains? A group of students who may have ‘enhanced their learning in Biology’ might also be expected to take their new-found learning skills into their Chemistry lessons and their History lessons. But this is never reported as it is always outside of the scope of the intervention being tested. The focus is rarely the students, but usually the subject.
So how do we benefit from concept mapping activity and how do we record that benefit? What are the benefits to the teachers who are involved in these interventions? Do they reflect on their teaching practice as a result of the research and modify the ways they interact with the students?
Studies that aim to ‘isolate’ the effect of the concept mapping from any other factors, in a rigorous, controlled environment seem particularly poorly suited to enhancing classroom practice as they lack ecological authenticity. Concept mapping is part of the armoury of the teacher. It needs to be used alongside testing, feedback and collaborative reflection in order for it to be most effective. So we need more ‘messy research’ that recognises the complexity of the classroom. We need innovative qualitative methodologies and fewer randomised control trials. We need creative and imaginative research, and not formulaic experiments that will show that the ‘experimental group saw a slight advantage over a control group’. We need the research community to move forward and take some risks. Then we might see some progress. Just as the teaching risk-takers are the ones who will have the inspiring lessons.