The focus of our workshop is using Social Network Analysis (SNA) as both a professional development activity and a research tool. We demonstrate an SNA activity that we have previously used with early career or experienced teachers to facilitate discussions of the teaching profession and their leadership opportunities. In particular, we focus on Visual Network Scales (VNS) as a pedagogical tool for describing and contrasting images from SNA and discussing what they mean. In the process of demonstrating the activity, we cover basic concepts in network thinking that demystify SNA. We also provide sample responses from previous teacher participants, and discuss implications for using SNA and VNS in education research.
The relevance of the workshop is related to growing interest in SNA and teacher leadership within the teacher education community. The workshop provides a general overview of network theory and how network data are collected, processed and interpreted through an activity for teachers. The activity was originally designed for use in an NSF Noyce project to develop teacher leaders, and was found to facilitate discourse on the profession and leadership rather than personal classroom issues. The SNA activity may be particularly relevant to science teacher education due to that population’s familiarity with measuring, quantifying and modeling systems. VNS provides an opportunity for teachers to model and explain interactions and outcomes.
Within the ASTE membership, the workshop would target individuals interested in teacher preparation, teacher professional development, and education research. We have used SNA- and systems-based lessons with pre-service (Master’s/certification programs) and in-service (Noyce program) teachers, which suggests an opportunity for additional curriculum development. We have also analyzed qualitative and quantitative SNA data, and been awarded a Noyce Collaborative Research grant for SNA, demonstrating the value of SNA in current research and funding opportunities. Our workshop will overview these efforts and serve as a resource for those members of the ASTE membership.
Dr. Polizzi is the lead presenter for this workshop. He completed his postdoctoral training in Chemistry Education at Kennesaw State University (KSU) in 2017, where he managed and researched a Noyce TF/MTF project, DUE 1035451 “I-IMPACT” under co-presenter Dr. Gregory Rushton (PI). He is currently a Research Assistant Professor at KSU, where he manages and researches a Noyce Track 4 Research project, DUE 1660736 “Network Retention in Noyce Communities of Practice (CoP).” Polizzi was a primary author of the CoP proposal with Rushton (PI), which continues his postdoctoral research, and focuses largely on network analysis of teacher professional communities. Polizzi received in-depth training at the LINKS Center for SNA at the University of Kentucky (UK) during the summers of 2014 and 2015, with SNA experts including Steve Borgotti, Dan Brass, Rich DeJordy, Ajay Mehra, and Scott Soltis. Since then, Polizzi has designed and implemented network analyses for the study of I-IMPACT and other Noyce initiatives. Along with members of the T-Lead team, Polizzi recently published SNA results in Ellis et al. (2017). Teachers as Leaders: The Impact of Teacher Leadership Supports for Beginning Teachers in an Online Induction Program. JTATE, 25(3), 245-272. Related to the proposed workshop, Polizzi has a manuscript in preparation with co-presenters Ofem and Rushton involving the use of visual network scales as both a teacher professional development activity and education research tool. Polizzi has provided SNA seminars to pre-service and/or in-service teachers at KSU, UK, and Stony Brook University. He has also mentored a Masters-level graduate research assistant in SNA analysis at KSU. Research dissemination includes SNA presentations at the 2017 Annual Noyce PI Conference, 2017 Noyce Southeast Regional Dialogue, 2016 National Association of Research in Science Teaching (NARST) annual meeting, and 2016 Southeastern Association for Science Teacher Education (SASTE) annual meeting.
In addition to his SNA experience, Polizzi has access to diverse SNA resources. He has access to Qualtrics online survey platform at KSU, including SNA survey templates with intricate internal mechanics. He has access to additional SNA instruments through his correspondence with Scott Soltis, Assistant Professor of Management at UK. He also has access to experts and instructors from the LINKS Center training program at UK. Through the CoP project, Polizzi has routine weekly contact with co-presenter Dr. Brandon Ofem, Assistant Professor of Global Leadership and Management at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, who studied and published SNA with Steve Borgatti. Polizzi also has access to the CoP advisory board SNA expert, Ajay Mehra, Gatton Endowed Professor of Management at UK. Polizzi collaborates with Dr. Brett Criswell, Clinical Assistant Professor of STEM Education at UK, who also trained in SNA at the LINKS Center at UK and has on-campus access to the LINKS Center and SNA expert Joe Ferrare, Assistant Professor of Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation. These resources can be leveraged to benefit workshop participants.
The workshop has specific learning objectives. At the conclusion of this activity, participants will be able to:
-define network theory, social network analysis, and visual network scales
-construct a simple social network survey instrument and network map
-compare different network structures
-apply network thinking principles to teacher profession development
We will assess that learning objectives have been met through discourse during the workshop and inspection of work products. We will review definitions at the beginning of the workshop and use them to recap at the end. We will inspect participants’ network maps during the activity to evaluate understanding of the survey instrument and data conversion to a model. We will facilitate discussion of different network structures, provide example teacher comments, and guide the conversation back to research-based network principles when necessary. Finally, we will solicit feedback on how network thinking may apply to participant contexts in order to gauge comprehension.
In the first stage of the activity we will facilitate introductions if it appears that the group has not already done so. We will compile the group’s preconception of social network analysis, since often this includes social media platforms rather than network theory and research tools. We will update the groups expectations and provide an outline of the workshop.
In the second stage of the activity, we engage in an interactive experience with a paper-based social network survey. The paper survey is similar to the online version administered to classroom teachers discussed later in the activity. We highlight the prompts required to solicit social network data for primary and secondary contacts. We also briefly cover ethical considerations for collecting data of a social nature. We then guide the conversion of network data into a visual map or sociogram. We end with provocative questions about “how well connected” or “how powerful” a participant feels they are based on their network map.
In the third stage of the activity, we begin walking the workshop participants through the activity designed for teachers. We review the possible patterns of connectivity in a network and provide research-based outcomes associated with the network shapes. We particularly focus on connectivity, or density, which can readily be interpreted from maps. We also use a visual network scale (VNS), or continuum of images from low to high density, in order to provide a reference and facilitate comparisons. For example, low density maps are associated with access to novel information and control of information, while high density maps at the other end of the continuum are associated with collaboration and feelings of inclusion.
In the fourth stage of the activity, we show two network maps along the VNS continuum and ask the group whether the network structure would benefit or constrain a certain teaching initiative. For example, if a less dense network be helpful or harmful to a teacher who wants to start gamifying his/her curriculum. We will facilitate discourse on the topic and provide example statements from teacher who previously participated in the activity. We then open the floor for workshop participants to share how networks do or do not manifest in their own educational contexts. Again we provide examples of how in-service teachers have previously responded, and highlight discourse related to teacher leadership. For example, teachers propose less dense networks are useful in hiring new teachers with fresh ideas, while more dense networks are important for establishing group expectations and comradery.
In the fifth and final stage of the activity, we recap the differences between network theory, social network analysis, and visual network scales. We highlight how different stages of the workshop are related to each construct. We leave time for any questions related to the constructs, and finish with our continuing efforts to use SNA and VNS to study teachers.
We will provide access to past and present electronic presentation materials via the lead presenter’s ResearchGate profile page. The presenters’ contact information will also be shared for addressing follow up questions and sharing additional resources. The lead presenter is able to directly share electronic versions of network surveys with workshop participants that have access to the Qualtrics survey platform through their home institution. Otherwise network survey prompts, consent forms, and related materials can be shared in Word or PDF formats. A basic format for network data collection and visualization will be provided as a worksheet for the workshop activity. Participants will also be notified if the workshop-related VNS paper in preparation is published prior to the ASTE 2019 conference.