Dynamics of Group Knowledge Production in Facilitated Modelling Workshops: An Exploratory Study
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- Tavella, E. & Franco, L.A. Group Decis Negot (2015) 24: 451. doi:10.1007/s10726-014-9398-2
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The term ‘facilitated modelling’ is used in the literature to characterise an approach to structuring problems, developing options and evaluating decisions by groups working in a model-supported workshop environment, and assisted by a facilitator. The approach involves an interactive process by which models are jointly developed with group members interacting face-to-face, with or without computer support. The models produced are used to inform negotiations about the nature of the issues faced by the group, and how to address them. While the facilitated modelling literature is impressive, published empirical research rarely examines what actually happens in a facilitated modelling environment. The present study addresses this gap by reporting on exploratory empirical research undertaken to closely examine the conduct of facilitated modelling within its actual context of immediate use, namely, the workshop. Drawing on the knowledge-perspective of group communication, we conducted a micro-level analysis of a transcript of a facilitated modelling workshop held with the management team of an Alternative Food Network in the UK. Our analysis suggests that facilitated modelling interactions can take the form of three distinct group knowledge production patterns: generative, collaborative and assertive. Further, each pattern is characterised by a particular mix of communicative behaviours and model-supported interactions that has implications for the creation of new knowledge within the workshop. Our findings contribute to increasing our understanding of the nature of facilitated modelling within its context of use.