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Making Connections: The Importance of the Social Networks of Students Enrolled in Learning Communities Gale Stuart Assistant Director for Assessment Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi TAIR, February 6, 2008 - Galveston, Texas Overview of Presentation

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slide1

Making Connections:The Importance of the Social Networks of Students Enrolled in Learning Communities

Gale Stuart

Assistant Director for Assessment

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

TAIR, February 6, 2008 - Galveston, Texas

overview of presentation
Overview of Presentation
  • Background of learning communities in higher education and statement of problem
  • An embarrassingly brief introduction to Social Network Analysis
  • Details of two SNA studies – Fall ’06 and Spring ’07
  • Implications of the findings
learning communities in higher education
Learning Communities in Higher Education
  • Theoretical Rationale:
    • Social learning
    • Student involvement
    • Peer interactions
    • Small groups
    • Connected curricula
goals of learning communities
Goals of Learning Communities
  • Increase involvement
  • Develop a sense of belonging
  • Increase awareness of connections between courses or disciplines
  • Enhance critical thinking skills
outcomes of learning communities
Outcomes of Learning Communities
  • Higher retention
  • Higher GPAs
  • Higher satisfaction with college
  • Higher intellectual skills functioning
  • Greater gains in social and personal development
focus of this study
Focus of this study:
  • Do the social relationships that students form in learning communities have any impact on college outcomes such as GPA and retention?
method social network analysis
Method: Social Network Analysis
  • A technique that considers social relations, from families up to nations. Social networks have been found to play a critical role in determining the way problems are solved, how organizations are run, and the degree to which individuals achieve their goals
  • Attribute data versus Relational data
applications of social network analysis
Applications of Social Network Analysis:
  • Study the spread of HIV in a prison system
  • Understand terrorist networks
  • Identify key players in an organization
  • Improve the functioning of a project team
  • Expose financial flows to investigate criminal behavior
  • Map communities of expertise in medical fields
  • Study the adoption of contraceptive techniques in third world countries
  • Explore power relations between countries
network perspectives
Network Perspectives
  • Egocentric perspective
  • Socio-centric perspective
egocentric network
Egocentric network

A

B

Ego

C

D

types of network measures for egocentric networks
Types of Network Measures for Egocentric Networks
  • Number sent
  • Number received
  • Number reciprocated
  • Personal Network Density
  • Indegree centrality
  • Outdegree centrality
  • Betweenness centrality
  • Closeness
types of network measures for socio centric networks
Types of Network Measures for Socio-centric Networks
  • Number of links
  • Average number sent
  • Density
  • Percent reciprocated
  • Number of isolates
  • Average Path Length
  • Clustering Coefficient
  • Centralization
site of study
Site of Study
  • Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi,

a regional university in south Texas

  • Fall 2006 enrollment approx. 8,500
  • 38% Hispanic; 53% White
  • 62% Female
  • 65% Full-time
  • Fall 2006 first-year class = 1,699
  • Spring 2007 first-year class = 1,337
study populations fall spring
Fall 2006

7 Triads/Tetrads, approximately 150 students each

Approximately 6 Cohorts per Triad/Tetrad comprised of 25 students each meeting in Freshman Seminar classes

52 total cohorts in Freshman Seminar with a total of 1,243 first-year students enrolled

Spring 2007

6 Triads/Tetrads, approximately 150 students each

Approximately 6 Cohorts per Triad/Tetrad comprised of 25 students each meeting in Freshman Seminar classes

41 total cohorts in Freshman Seminar with a total of 983 first-year students enrolled

Study Populations Fall & Spring
data collection
Data Collection
  • On-line survey administered in Freshman Seminar class in late October 2006

& late March 2007

  • Fall: 70% response rate
  • Spring: 75% response rate
  • Confidential not anonymous
  • Background variables matched from university student records
items on the instrument
Items on the Instrument
  • Personal time usage (work, socializing)
  • Participation in classroom activities
  • Learning Community satisfaction
  • Academic satisfaction
  • Overall College satisfaction
  • Social Support from family & friends
  • Impressions of Freshman Seminar class
  • Mood and disposition over last month
three network items
Three Network Items:
  • Select up to 7 people from your Freshman Seminar Class who:
    • You consider to be friends
    • You study with
    • You would share a secret with
dependent variables
Dependent Variables
  • Cumulative GPA in the Fall 2006 and Spring 2007 semester (from matched university records)
  • Re-enrollment in the spring for fall students
  • Re-enrollment in the fall for spring students
fall 2006 results egocentric nets
Fall 2006 Results – Egocentric Nets
  • N= 873
  • 13 variables enter the equation
  • R-square = .267
  • 3 social network items enter:
    • FriendsNet-Number Received
    • FriendsNet-Density (negative)
    • StudyNet-Indegree
relationships do matter
Relationships do matter:
  • Popular students are also good students
  • Friendship groups that are closed to outsiders are not good for academic performance
  • Students who are popular choices for a study partner have higher GPAs
other results of egocentric regression
Other results of Egocentric Regression:
  • Students with higher high school class ranks and who come from wealthier homes generally do better
  • Hispanic students have on the average a third of a point lower GPA than Whites
  • First Generation students have on the average almost a quarter of a point lower GPA than Whites
  • Increasing the hours spent studying pays off in higher GPA, while increasing the hours spent socializing results in lower GPA
fall 2006 results of socio centric regressions
Fall 2006 Results of Socio-centric Regressions
  • Predicting average class GPA
  • N=52 cohorts
slide25
Once we control for High School Rank, the clustering coefficient becomes important in predicting average class GPA:

Mean GPA = 3.05

N= 24

Clustering Coefficient = 34.63

Mean GPA = 2.59

N= 25

Clustering Coefficient = 11.29

students who did not re enroll
Students who did not re-enroll:
  • Had lower GPAs (1.80 versus 2.69)
  • Were first generation students (65%)
  • Lived off-campus (65%)
  • Worked off-campus (80%)
  • Were less satisfied with their social and learning community experiences
  • Reported being less happy in the past month
  • Did not agree as often that they belonged at A&M-CC
students who did not re enroll27
Students who did not re-enroll:
  • Sent far fewer friendship nominations
  • Were more disconnected from others, had less dense networks
  • Were more likely to be isolates
  • Were far more likely to study alone
fall 2006 study take aways
Fall 2006 study take-aways:
  • Hispanic and first-generation students are at greatest risk
  • Relationships do matter – more connected students persist and perform better academically
  • Closed, dense networks are not optimal for success
  • Knowing several different people is good for academic performance
  • Students who are socially isolated are more likely not to re-enroll
spring 2007 results egocentric nets
Spring 2007 Results–Egocentric Nets
  • N=746
  • 13 variables enter the equation
  • R-square = .332
  • 5 social network variables enter:
    • FriendsNet-Number received
    • StudyNet-Number reciprocated
    • TrustNet-Closeness out (negative)
    • StudyNet-Closeness in
    • StudyNet-Density (negative)
relationships matter
Relationships matter:
  • Again, popular students are also good students
  • Studying together in small groups improves GPA
  • Students who study in exclusive groups do not perform as well academically
  • Students who have lower barriers for trust do not perform as well, although trusting at least one person could be important
other results of egocentric regression31
Other results of Egocentric Regression:
  • Once again, higher high school rank is associated with higher GPA
  • Once again, Hispanic students and first generation students have on the average a lower GPA than Whites (.20 lower)
  • Once again, increasing the hours spent studying pays off in higher GPA, while increasing the hours spent socializing results in lower GPA
  • Students who work off-campus have a lower GPA than those who do not work off-campus
spring 2007 results of socio centric regressions social network outcomes
Spring 2007 Results of Socio-centric Regressions – Social Network outcomes
  • Predicting average class GPA
  • N=41 cohorts
friendships do matter
Friendships do matter…
  • Classes in which students have friendships that are mutual tend to perform better academically. These reciprocated relationships indicate strong bonds.
  • It is important to academic performance for a student to have at least one friend
  • Even after controlling for High School grades, relationships impact average GPA
studying together is a good thing
Studying together is a good thing!
  • Freshman Seminar classes that have higher study partner density also have higher GPAs
  • This means that the more students study with lots of other students, the better grades they receive on the average
trust in the classroom is important
Trust in the Classroom is important
  • These data show that it is important that students have at least one person in the class they can trust
  • Trusting relationships should be mutual for optimal academic performance
  • Even after controlling for High School grades, these relationships are important
students who did not re enroll36
Students who did not re-enroll:
  • Had lower GPAs (1.70 versus 2.70)
  • Were disproportionately Hispanic (48%) and first generation students (62%)
  • Were less satisfied with their academic and overall college experiences
  • Reported being less happy in the past month
  • Did not agree as often that they belonged at A&M-CC
students who did not re enroll37
Students who did not re-enroll:
  • Sent and received far fewer friendship nominations
  • Were more disconnected/distant from others, had less dense networks
  • Did not tend to study with others
  • Were less likely to have someone they trusted in the class
spring 2007 study take aways
Spring 2007 study take-aways:
  • Hispanic and first generation students on the average have lower GPAs and are at risk to not re-enroll
  • Popular students are also good students
  • It is important to GPA for students to have at least one friend and at least one person they can trust in the class
  • To succeed in class, friendship and trust bonds should be strong (reciprocal)
  • Study patterns are optimal when students study in pairs and with different people – closed study partner groups do not perform as well
research implications of the method
Research Implications of the Method
  • The importance of students’ relationships with each other in the context of academic success can be measured
  • Can aid in early recognition of situations that may require intervention (like isolated students)
pedagogical implications
Pedagogical Implications:

Instructors should think about pedagogical strategies in the classroom that promote the following outcomes:

  • Having at least one friend in the class is important to academic success
  • Studying in a group is effective, but the group should not be an exclusive one and the study partners should be changed up
  • It bodes better for academic success if students have reciprocated friendships (strong bonds)
  • It is good for academic success if students know several different people rather than to be a member of a closed group of friends. Encourage the break-up of a “cabal” if you see one forming.
thank you
Thank you!

Contact Information:

Gale Stuart

Assistant Director for Assessment

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

gale.stuart@tamucc.edu