• Arts informed visual research: using images to learn about the social world.
• Hartel's 'draw-and write technique' (2014)
• Participants draw an image onto an 'iSquare' alongside a written description to express their
views and opinions of group work.
• An approach most commonly used in education.
• Interview data was also used to explore the themes in more detail.
AIM: to find out what students think of group work and
how they work with each other in group situations.
PARTICIPANTS: 163 students (Undergraduate and
Postgraduate) from four Information School modules.
CONTEXT: Students came from a variety of cultural and
education backgrounds and all had experience of group
work in higher education.
The iSquares were classified into genres through Englehart’s 10
classifications of graphic representations (2002).
The majority of the iSquares were link diagrams (27) or pictures
(39). The hybrid categories link diagram with text (45) and picture
with text (16) were also found. Examples are shown above.
Circles were often used
to show connectivity,
Speech bubbles and
figures around desks
suggested the importance
of discussion and face-to-
Question marks and
lightbulbs were used to
represent ideas and
The theme of communication and its importance
in group work was repeatedly identified.
Surprisingly, there were few iSquares relating to the
themes of technology and multicultural groups.
The majority of iSquares were interpreted as having
a positive theme; those that were negative mostly
focused on the issue of 'freeloading'.
The theme of 'stages' of group work, or group
work as a process, was often shown through link
diagrams and arrows (examples shown below).
Belbin's roles: the iSquares often
represented these roles (team leader,
team worker and resource investigator).
In particular 'team leader' appeared
often and seemed to be regarded as an
important role by participants.
The written descriptions were
also analysed as students often
explained their personal
experiences through written text.
A word cloud featuring the words
used most often is shown; many
relate to the main themes identified
in the iSquares.
Communication is a theme that was strongly identified in every analysis. Regular and clear
communication, such as having group meetings often, appears to be key for success and an effective
way to overcome problems such as freeloading.
Other recurrent themes were the importance of a team leader and following ‘stages’ of group work.
It could be useful for students to discuss these stages together and to identify a leader within the group.
Themes such as technology and multicultural groups (and the issues that can arise with both) were
only strongly identified in the interviews. This might be because they are topics that are hard to represent
graphically. Further research into these areas and their place in group work may be useful.
Belbin, R. M. (1981). Management Teams: Why They Succeed or Fail. Oxford:
Hartel (2014) An arts-informed study of information using the draw-and-write
technique. Journal of the Association for Information Science & technology 65 (7)
Engelhardt, Y. (2002) The language of graphics: A framework for the analysis of
syntax and meaning in maps, charts and diagrams. (Unpublished doctoral
dissertation). Institute for Logic, Language and Computation, University of
Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Weber, S., & Mitchell, C.A. (1995). That's Funny You Don't Look Like a
Teacher: Interrogating Images and Identity in Popular Culture. Routledge: London.
Stick Figure 82
Thought/Speech bubbles 26
Question Mark 5
Examples of hands to represent positivity and support.
Common themes and the number of
times they appeared in the iSquare data
Student Researcher: Chloe Cook (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Supervisor: Pam McKinney (email@example.com) Information School
“It’s a very, very good
people are more
willing to listen to
each other because
we know we’ve got
that different cultural
“It’s I think the most
important, the most hated
thing, is freeriding”
“Yeah, if you got
very efficientgroup leader you
can save lots of
“… on social media
I felt it was a bit of
a barrier at times”
Issues with technology
Issue of freeriding
Importance of the
The common motifs and the number of times they appeared are
shown in the table. Many motifs were repeatedly used to represent a
certain theme. Examples are given below