Concept Map of a Working-Student
This year’s AC4D capstone project focuses on college persistence for post-traditional students. This week we created concept maps to express the post-traditional student experience. Concept maps are visual tools that show the connections between ideas (or concepts) and are used by practitioners to communicate informational structure.
Our group (Kim, Kay, and I) chose to focus on the experience of working-students which we define as students that work part- or full-time jobs while attending school. Working-students struggle with many of the same hardships that any other student may have. They have the same hopes and dreams. They have friends and families that can act both as a system of support and a source of distraction. However, there is a major difference between working- and nonworking-students: prioritization. For students that must work to afford tuition, work must always come first; work enables education. So rather than diving into the college experience, working-students must keep one foot out of the pool which makes their academic journey more fragile.
CREATING THE MAP
To create the concept map, I began by reading through our data for recurring nouns. Words like “school, work, motivation, graduation, better life, obstacle, money,” were prevalent. The next step was to group the words thematically. For example, “money” was often mentioned in connection to a “better life.” Whether or not this value holds true for you, the reader, it is a shared sentiment among many of our participants. Afterward, I connected the nouns with verbs (or a short phrase containing a verb) to create a flow of information. Finally, the information was ready to be laid out on paper.
WHAT I LEARNED
Throughout this process, I struggled with defining a level of scope. Questions like, “which information is too granular?” and “when am I not showing enough information in the diagram?” gave me some trouble. I hope that as I get more opportunities to practice this type of sense-making exercise, these types of reservations become less frequent.
Reflecting on things I could’ve done better from the first semester of AC4D, I would like to more proactively seek-out feedback. Therefore, if you, the reader, have any feedback – I’d love to have a conversation with you about how I can improve this artifact, specifically with how the information flows and the level of detail that is present. I will leave my email below.