26 SES 01 A, Social Capital, Agency and Learning Communities
Framing. Over the past quarter century a sizable body of theoretical and empirical work has focused on the role of social capital in school transformation and improvement. Anchored in the work of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1986), social capital refers to real or potential resources for action that are attained through relationships (Bourdieu, 1986; Coleman, 1988; Lin, 1982, 2001). Education research has consistently pointed to the importance of social capital in enabling instructional reform in schools.
Social relations or ties, are a necessary, if insufficient condition, for social capital development because such ties can serve as conduits for advice and information allowing people to pool different information that potentially enables the development of new knowledge (Coburn, 2001; Daly & Finnigan, 2010; Frank et al., 2004). Advice and information acquired through social relations are fundamental for the development of new knowledge about teaching (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000). Teachers create opportunities to learn about their practice when they share expertise, talk about new material, and discuss effective teaching strategies (Brownell, Yeager, Rennells, & Riley, 1997; Davis, 2003; Little, 2003; Smylie, Bennett, Konkol, & Fendt, 2005). Several studies document that teachers learn from one another and that such learning is consequential for student achievement (Goldhaber & Hansen, 2010; Jackson & Bruegmann, 2009; Pil & Leana, 2009)
Social capital has both internal (i.e., referring to relations within the organization or intra-organizational ties) and external dimensions (i.e., ties that reach outside the immediate school organization or the inter-organizational dimension) (Adler & Kwon, 2002; Burt, 2000). External ties complement internal ties in the production of new knowledge about teaching.
Research on social capital in schools, however, has centered mostly on the impact of social capital on valued school outcomes.
Yet, the mechanisms that account for social capital development have remained mostly unexplored in the education literature (Coburn, 2001; Lin, 1999; Small, 2010; Spillane, Kim, & Frank, 2012). We need research that identifies those conditions associated with social capital development in schools and school systems if we are to identify the causes of social capital development and work to enable its development (Glaeser, 2001). One step in this direction involves understanding those factors associated with the existence of a social tie about teaching among actors because absent social ties, individuals do not have access to social resources.
This presentation reports on a theory building mixed method study examining those factors associated with the development of social capital in schools and betweenschools. Our research questions are:
1) What are the predictors of advice and information ties about teaching among teachers and school leaders both within and between schools in local education systems?
2) Who brokers ties about teaching within and between primary (elementary) schools?
Significance: If research is to inform efforts to build social capital in schools and school systems we need an understanding of those factors associated with the existence or formation of social ties – a necessary condition for access to social resources. The work reported here contributes to this need in at least two ways. First, we explore simultaneous those factors associated with both internal and external ties about teaching among school staff. Second, we describe who brokers relations between schools (i.e., external ties) in an effort to understand what might account for these brokering positions. As education policymakers and practitioners in several countries (e.g., England, Sweden) work to promote social capital in schools in an effort to improve teaching and learning our analysis is timely (Chapman, in press; Chapman & Muijs, in press).
Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education. New York, NY: Greenwood. Bryk, A. S., & Schneider, B. (2002). Trust in schools: A core resource for improvement. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. Chapman, C. (in press). From one school to many: Reflections on the impact and nature of school federations and chains in England. Educational Management Administration & Leadership. Chapman, C., & Muijs, D. (in press). Does school-to-school collaboration promote school improvement? A study of the impact of school federations on student outcomes. School Effectiveness and School Improvement. Daly, A. J., & Finnigan, K. S. (2010). A bridge between worlds: Understanding network structure to understand change strategy. Journal of Educational Change, 11(2), 111-138. Frank, K. A., Zhao, Y., Penuel, W. R., Ellefson, N., & Porter, S. (2011). Focus, fiddle, and friends: Experiences that transform knowledge for the implementation of innovations. Sociology of Education, 84(2), 137-156. Leana, C. R., & Pil, F. K. (2006). Social capital and organizational performance: Evidence from urban public schools. Organization Science, 17(3), 353-366. Little, J. W. (2003). Inside teacher community: Representations of classroom practice. Teachers College Record, 105(6), 913-945. Moolenaar, N. M., Daly, A. J., & Sleegers, P. J. C. (2011). Ties with potential: Social network structure and innovative climate in Dutch schools. Teachers College Record, 113(9), 1983-2017. Pil, F. K., & Leana, C. R. (2009). Applying organizational research to public school reform: The effects of teacher human and social capital on student performance. Academy of Management Journal, 52(6), 1101-1124. Small, M. (2010). Human resources. The RSA Journal(Autumn). Spillane, J. P., Kim, C. M., & Frank, K. A. (2012). Instructional advice and information seeking behavior in elementary schools: Exploring tie formation as a building block in social capital development. American Educational Research Journal, 49(6), 1112-1145. Sweet, T., Thomas, A. C., & Junker, B. W. (2014). Incorporating covariates into blockmodels for social networks. Working paper. Van Duijn, M. A. J., Snijders, T. A. B., & Zijlstra, B. (2004). p2: A random effects model with covariates for directed graphs. Statistica Neerlandica, 58(2), 234-254. Van Duijn, M. A. J., & Vermunt, J. K. (2006). What is special about social network analysis? Methodology, 2(1), 2-6.
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