Social networks

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The Social Fabric of Elementary School Teams:

How Network Content Shapes Social Networks [1]


Background. Social networks among teachers are receiving increased attention as a vehicle to support the implementation of educational innovations, foster teacher development, and ultimately, improve school achievement. While researchers are currently studying a variety of teacher network types for their impact on educational policy implementation and practice, knowledge on how various types of networks are interrelated is limited.

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Moreover, studies that examine the dimensionality that may underlie various types of social networks in schools are scarce.

Purpose. The goal of this chapter was to increase our understanding of how network content shapes social network structure in elementary school teams. The study examines the extent to which various work-related (instrumental) and personal (expressive) social networks among educators are related. In addition, we explore a typology of social networks in schools and investigate whether the common distinction between instrumental and expressive social networks could be validated in the context of elementary school teams.

Method. Social network data were collected among 775 educators from 53 elementary schools in a large educational system in the Netherlands. The interrelatedness of seven social networks was assessed using the Quadratic Assignment Procedure (QAP) correlations. Multidimensional Scaling (MDS) was used to discern underlying dimensions that may explain the observed similarities. Finally, we describe and visualize the seven networks in an exemplary sample school.

Conclusions. Findings suggest small to moderate similarity between the social networks under study. Results support the distinction between instrumental and expressive networks in school teams and suggest a second dimension of mutual in(ter)dependence to explain differences in social relationships between educators.

The social fabric of elementary school teams; How network content shapes social networks


The rapidly growing interest in social networks can be characterized as one of the major trends in social science research. According to scientific databases (ERIC, Picarta, and Web of Science), the number of publications in social sciences using the word ‘social network(s)’ in the title, keywords, or abstract, has increased exponentially over the last two decades (Borgatti & Foster, 2003) (see 1). Evidence of this trend in education is exhibited by an increasing number of articles focusing on the intersection of social networks and education in a growing variety of settings and areas of emphasis. The thesis that ‘relationships matter’ is currently inspiring educational researchers around the world to study social networks in school teams (Daly, in press; Daly & Finnigan, 2009; Daly et al., in press; McCormick, Fox, Carmichael, & Procter, in press; Penuel, Riel, Krause, & Frank, 2009) (see also 1). An important prerequisite for gaining insights in the potential of social networks for schools is the emergence of social network studies that provide a deepened understanding of the structure and content of teachers’

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