Academic journal article Education Research International

Collaborative Concept Mapping: Connecting with Research Team Capacities

Academic journal article Education Research International

Collaborative Concept Mapping: Connecting with Research Team Capacities

Article excerpt

Linda De George-Walker 1 and Mark A. Tyler 2

Academic Editor:Bernhard Schmidt-Hertha

1, School of Human, Health and Social Sciences, Central Queensland University, Locked Bag 3333, Bundaberg, QLD 4670, Australia
2, School of Education and Professional Studies, Griffith University, Mt Gravatt Campus, 176 Messines Ridge Road, Mt Gravatt Brisbane, QLD 4122, Australia

Received 19 November 2013; Accepted 30 March 2014; 1 June 2014

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

1. Introduction

In an effort to address the quality and impact of research, higher education institutions have invested in research capacity building initiatives including those that leverage the expertise and relationships within research collaborations and teams. Yet, the various methods and tools appropriate for understanding and building research capacity within research teams remain underexplored. This paper reports on a case study of a collaborative concept mapping process (CCM) with an educational research team located at a regional Australian university. We argue that collaborative concept mapping is an exercise that embodies effective capacity building processes by enabling exploration, articulation, and negotiation of shared motives and opportunities for research team development.

We undertake this journey by first conceptualising capacity and the building of research capacity as it appears in the literature. We then move to CCM and argue how it is well suited as a capacity building process. Next we introduce the case study per se, summarise the research team's first experience with CCM, and highlight and explore the refinements made with the team's second attempt. The paper culminates with an analysis of CCM as a capacity building process in relation to the means, motives, and opportunity framework of Britton as deployed by James and Wrigley [1].

1.1. Conceptualising Capacity Building

Broadly, capacity building stimulates desired development and change for individuals, organisations, and communities. Yet, capacity building has an intangibility that "makes it the stuff of myth or magic" [2, page 210]. First, capacity building as a concept has been described as a mysterious, elusive, confused, and misinterpreted, with numerous definitions present in the literature [1-4]. Further, capacity building is considered to be undertheorised [3]. Harrow [2], however, concluded that although "the concept appears theoretically homeless," it is not necessarily atheoretical having found "temporary accommodation in a variety of literature" (page 226), for example, capacity building features in the literature on community development [4, 5]; international aid [1, 3]; public management and social policy [2, 6]; health policy and practice [7, 8]; and educational research [9, 10]. Accordingly, capacity building has been variously theorised, for example, by means of stewardship theory (e.g., [2]), social capital theories (e.g., [11]), developmental systems theories, such as Bronfenbrenner's bioecological model (e.g., [8]), and transformational leadership (e.g., [5]). Given the range of contexts and conceptualisations it is hardly surprising that a single encapsulating definition and theory of capacity building remains elusive. Rather than considering this as an undesired situation to be rectified, definitional and theoretical eclecticism can be argued as necessary for the application of capacity building across the varied contexts in which it has been deployed.

No matter which definition, theory and conceptual lens is used to frame capacity building; a critical question remains: what is effective capacity building? James and Wrigley [1], adopting the crime metaphor of Britton, identify that effective capacity building in aid-based contexts requires attention to motive , means, and opportunity . …

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