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The Social Networks of College Students in Learning Communities: 

The Social Networks of College Students in Learning Communities Gale Stuart, Doctoral Candidate UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies Social Research Methodology Division Research Analyst Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi February 18, 2007

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 may form in learning communities have any impact on college outcomes such as GPA, persistence, or satisfaction with the college experience?

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 Ego-centric perspective Socio-centric perspective

Ego-centric network: 

Ego-centric network ● ● ● ● ● Ego A B C D

Types of Network Measures for Ego-centric Networks: 

Types of Network Measures for Ego-centric Networks Number sent Number received Number reciprocated Personal Network Density Indegree centrality Outdegree centrality Betweenness centrality

Comparison of Ego-centric Measures : 

Comparison of Ego-centric Measures 22 2 8

Socio-centric Networks: 

Socio-centric Networks

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

A Comparison of Friendship Networks from Two Classes:: 

A Comparison of Friendship Networks from Two Classes: Friends Network 1 Friends Network 2

Site of Study: 

Site of Study Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, a regional university in south Texas Enrollment approx. 8,500 38% Hispanic; 53% White 62% Female 65% Full-time Fall 2006 first-year class = 1,699

First Year Learning Community Program Design: 

First Year Learning Community Program Design

Fall 2006 Design: 

Fall 2006 Design 7 Triads/Tetrads, approximately 150 students each Approximately 6 Cohorts per Triad/Tetrad, 25 students each meeting in Freshman Seminar classes 52 total cohorts in Freshman Seminar with a total of 1,243 first-year students

The Data: 

The Data On-line survey administered in Freshman Seminar class in late October 2006 70% Response rate Confidential not anonymous Background variables matched from university student records

Items on the Instrument: 

Items on the Instrument How many hours per week do you study? How many hours per week do you work? (on/off campus) Pedagogical measures Social Support items Quality of Life items Attitudes toward Freshman Seminar items Sense of belongingness to the institution item Satisfaction with college items

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 Semester (from matched university records) Satisfaction with the College experience (from survey items) Re-enrollment in the spring semester (not yet available)

Preliminary Results – Predicting GPA Ego-centric Network Measures (n=571, r-square = .229): 

Preliminary Results – Predicting GPA Ego-centric Network Measures (n=571, r-square = .229)

Preliminary Results – Predicting Mean GPA Socio-centric Measures (n=52, r-square = .318) : 

Preliminary Results – Predicting Mean GPA Socio-centric Measures (n=52, r-square = .318)

Once we control for High School Rank, the clustering coefficient becomes important in predicting average class GPA:: 

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

Preliminary Results – Predicting Mean Global Satisfaction with the College Experience Socio-centric Measures n = 52, r-square = .429: 

Preliminary Results – Predicting Mean Global Satisfaction with the College Experience Socio-centric Measures n = 52, r-square = .429

Interpretation: 

Interpretation Once we control for social support and the number of hours students spend socializing with their friends, having at least one person in their freshman seminar class who they can trust is strongly related to higher satisfaction with their college experience.

Early Conclusions: 

Early Conclusions Aspects of the bonds that students make in their Freshman Seminar classes do predict academic achievement Analysis of satisfaction with the overall college experience outcome indicates that having a close bond with someone in their learning community class has a positive influence Retention to the next term is an important outcome that is not available for analysis at this time

Research Implications of the Method: 

Research Implications of the Method Social network analysis can be used to investigate the relationships between pedagogy and outcomes 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

Thank you!: 

Thank you! Contact Information: Gale Stuart Research Analyst Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Gale.Stuart@tamucc.edu UCLA Doctoral Candidate gstuart@ucla.edu