Concept mapping is useful in a planning or evaluation project, as it is often undertaken to make the situation recognizable and clear through a graphical or pictorial representation.
As we all know, ensuring that everyone has a common understanding of a task or activity is difficult to achieve. It is in this scenario, concept mapping is a boon as it encourages the participant group to stay on the task, and the conceptual framework is expressed in the language of the participants rather than the planner or evaluator.
These maps are used in many situations, with project formation, strategic planning, product development, decision-making, market analysis, and measurement development being the main ones.
This is the first step and takes place before the beginning of the actual group activity. Here, the facilitator works with the people involved to decide on who will participate in the process.
It is after the focus and participant statements have been decided, that the participants develop a large set of statements. These statements describe the focus from a number of different aspects.
Statements are now Structured
Once generated, the participants organize the statements to check if they are related to each other. This is done through two activities: sorting and rating.
First, each participant sorts the statements into piles according to his or her judgment. Then, the participants rate each statement on some scale, whose focus is decided in the planning.
Using the former, each statement is represented as a separate point on the map. The statements that are piled together by more participants, are put closer to each other on the map meaning that the distance between the points stands for the degree of interrelationships among the statements.
In the latter, the outcomes are partitioned into cluster or groups. The concepts that are grouped into a cluster are the ones that are strongly interrelated to each other or reflect similar ideas.
Maps are Interpreted
- As the name suggests, this step involves reading of the maps and lists. These include:
- The Statement List
- The Cluster List
- The Point Map
- The Point Rating Map
- The Cluster Map
- The Cluster Rating Map
Maps are Utilized
Finally, the stakeholder group uses the maps to address the area that they are focusing on.
The map that has been created is useful for both evaluation and planning. It helps in planning by showing the action plan, assessment of needs, planning of the group structure, or the program development. In an evaluation, it displays the basis for sampling, developing metrics, and/or outcome assessment.
Concept mapping is a very effective tool for group conceptualization. It helps to bring all stakeholders to a common consensus and thereby, eliminates hurdles in the implementation of any project.