Thursday, 28 January 2016

Making mapping (of professional lives) work

Alongside the activity I am undertaking to develop a conceptual base for using visual methods, I am getting on with the job of creating tools that I and others can use to explore professional life. As a researcher, I am particularly interested in helping children, young people and adults to understand services and organisations they work in or use better. As a visual person with a background in community work, I have had the opportunity to do things like develop visual methods with young people in the care system (reviewing their experiences of mental health services, for example). More recently, my PhD research used visual artifacts (cartoons, data maps and table top assemblages) to help leaders of early childhood services understand their professional narratives. Since then, I have begun to introduce visual and interactive teaching methods in my lecturing role at university - and have taken visual tools into my research practice in schools.

Developing visual and interactive tools is a real test, because I want them to be meaningful (to both people using them and academically) and effective (which includes them being fun, easy and intuitive to use). Combining all these things is harder than you might think, and many hours of practice and refining have gone into this so far. I am now at the stage when I want to formally test and develop visual tools within my research context -  services and educational settings that work with children, young people and families. I have a particular interest in emotional well-being, inclusion and how children experience settings and services. Specifically, as a coach I want to develop tools that I (and professionals) can use to better reflect on their practice, so they can be more effective, self-aware and inclusive.

I have lots of potential directions and sources of inspiration (on the conceptual front, see previous posts), and am currently working with the idea of mapping professional life. The picture I have included here is one example, which thinks about the idea of mapping as an activity which relates and brings elements into the same 'space' so work can be done with them. In that sense, this example is inspired by my use of the visual in my coaching practice, the ideas in my previous post and generally by Adele Clarke's work on situational mapping.

...I have lots of scribbly pages and messy models ahead of me.