I am messing around with cognitive mapping instruments, stolen with Andrew Asher’s blessing from the ERIAL toolkit (I know, I know, I don’t need anyone’s blessing because hey, that’s what toolkits are for! Especially those posted on the web). I am doing this in part because photo diaries, while useful and capable of yielding rich information, are really really time consuming and difficult to get students to do. I am still very much hoping to get back to University College, London, to continue the work I started there in 2011, and when I am there I’d like to use cognitive maps as well as structured interviews and immersive observations to get a sense of how and why various learning spaces are being used by UCL students and faculty.
So, I’m doing some here at UNC Charlotte. At the very least, such an exploratory exercise can give us a sense of what our undergraduate and graduate students’ spatial networks look like when they are written down. The data I’m collecting can also begin to serve as a comparative set for the data that I hope to be able to collect in the UK.
I just want to put some of the maps here because I think they are really interesting. I am of course far from the only one doing this–Lesley Gourlay at the IOE and her colleagues have done some mapping exercises, and of course there is the aformentioned ERIAL work, among other ethnographic projects in the US. The students were given 6 minutes to complete each map, and were asked to map all of the places that they go to/inhabit in some way for their academic work. I was specific in saying that the spaces could be on- or off-campus. The maps posted here are undergraduate maps–I have maps from graduate students that we are still processing. In general, undergraduate space maps indicate the need for them to be in places that make it easy for them to get to the other places they need to go to. If they have class in a particular building, they are more likely to study in the Student Union than the library, because the former is closer. If they live away from campus, they might be likely to have off-campus cafes, etc. on their maps as work spaces. The choices they make about where to settle in to study are not made in a vacuum. There is a similar diversity to the spaces they find themselves in, however, in part because undergraduate classes occur in a variety of buildings in different parts of campus, and are not necessarily taught in the building that house their major programs. Graduate student maps (in process) have less diversity of spaces, because they are much more tied to the departmental labs and spaces of their degree programs.
The students worked for 2 minutes in each pen color, beginning with blue, moving to red, and then ending with black. Some students finished before the 6 minute mark, resulting in some maps in just 2 colors (such as #7 shown here).