A Case Study of Knowledge Elicitation and Collaborative Information Seeking

An example of using KE methods during CIS activities can be found in the dissertation work of McNeese (McNeese 2014). In this work, McNeese used all three families of KE to study how team cognition developed during a CIS activity. The dissertation consisted of two separate but related studies, below we outline each.

McNeese et al. (2014) study consisted of both dyad and triad teams working on a CIS specific activity in a colocated environment. Using these tasks, the researchers sought to understand the different processes the teams utilized to collaboratively seek information, and also the development of team cognition throughout the CIS tasks. When participants came to the lab, they were provided with a brief overview of each of the main topics that the study pertained to: CIS and team cognition. Then, the participants were given a set of three related CIS tasks in which they had a total of 30 minutes to complete. During these tasks, the participants were given freedom in how to complete the tasks, either through communication methods or individual work. As the participants were collaborating, their work was video recorded for the purposes of process tracing. Once the teams completed their tasks, they were separated to complete two different KE methods—interviewing and conceptual techniques. More specifically, each participant completed an individual interview, and an individual declarative concept map (focused on declarative knowledge) relating to the concept of CIS. Each of these methods provided the researchers insights into the individual and team cognition associated with CIS. After each participant completed both a cognitive interview and a concept map, the team came back together to produce a procedural concept map highlighting the process of CIS while also outlining the role of cognition during the process.

Results from this study indicated that team cognition specific to CIS develops in the form of a team mental model, that is often taskwork oriented (McNeese et al. 2014). The development of the team mental models aligns with previous work that has described how team mental models develop (McComb et al. 2010). During this study, individual team members begin the task with their own individual cognition and then shift their cognition to align with team-based goals. Accordingly, there is a need for a cognitive shift from the individual to the team level. So, individual team member’s activities lead them to evolve from their individual mental models into a team mental model. This mental model convergence from individual to team is divided into three phases (McComb et al. 2010): (1) team members become familiar with the new domain; (2) each team member creates a unique view of the situation, which may differ from that of the other team members; and (3) they let their individual views progress into a team view. These three phases were also reflected in N.J McNeese’s (2014) study. The concept mapping data from this study also indicated that the most central concepts of CIS were: Research, Sharing Information, End Goal, the Internet, and Collaboration (McNeese and Reddy 2015b). In addition, findings from this study also highlighted the important role of multiple awareness mechanisms that help to develop team cognition during CIS. More specifically, multiple specific awareness methods centered around the concepts of search, information, and social were all identified as being critical to team cognition development (McNeese and Reddy 2015c).

The second study of N.J. McNeese’s dissertation work focused on understanding CIS processes and team cognition development in the context of distributed work. In this study, the same CIS tasks were given with the same time limitations for the purposes of comparing the distributed setting to the colocated setting. In this study, dyad teams communicated solely through the CIS system Coagmento. The chat logs that the participants communicated in were recorded as an outlet to process tracing. After the CIS tasks were completed, each individual team member took part in a cognitive interview (McNeese 2014). Results from this work indicated that even in the distributed setting, team cognition related specifically to CIS developed (McNeese and Reddy 2015a). Particularly, a CIS team mental model developed in the teams. Yet, in comparison to the colocated setting, these models were highly dependent on taskwork aspects of team cognition and not teamwork aspects found in the colocated teams. Aspects that were identified as helping to develop team cognition in this setting were: team experience, communication and sharing information, awareness, trust and assumptions, leadership or lack of leadership, and the structured nature of distributed CIS. Future research based on these studies will specifically highlight multiple CIS processes that the teams utilized during the CIS tasks.

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