Understanding Classrooms through Social Network Analysis: A Primer for Social Network Analysis in Education Research.


Social interactions between students are a major and underexplored part of undergraduate education. Understanding how learning relationships form in undergraduate classrooms, as well as the impacts these relationships have on learning outcomes, can inform educators in unique ways and improve educational reform. Social network analysis (SNA) provides the necessary tool kit for investigating questions involving relational data. We introduce basic concepts in SNA, along with methods for data collection, data processing, and data analysis, using a previously collected example study on an undergraduate biology classroom as a tutorial. We conduct descriptive analyses of the structure of the network of costudying relationships. We explore generative processes that create observed study networks between students and also test for an association between network position and success on exams. We also cover practical issues, such as the unique aspects of human subjects review for network studies. Our aims are to convince readers that using SNA in classroom environments allows rich and informative analyses to take place and to provide some initial tools for doing so, in the process inspiring future educational studies incorporating relational data.

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