The Impact of Student Social Networks on Classroom Participation, Student Learning, and Student Satisfaction

Rachael Neal, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Coe College
Ryan Sheppard, Assistant Professor of Sociology, St. Olaf College

In recent decades, researchers of student learning have touted the effectiveness of collaborative learning strategies in the college classroom. These strategies are characterized by high levels of discussion, faculty-student interactions, peer teaching, and other activities that require critical engagement with academic materials.

This Collaborative Research project will explore the impact of students' social networks with one another on:

  1. Their willingness to participate in their classes;
  2. Students' evaluation of and satisfaction with their classes; and
  3. Their academic success in their classes.

This project will also develop strategies for faculty interested in shaping students' social networks within their classrooms for the benefit of faculty and students alike.

Rachael Neal brings expertise in social network analysis, Ryan Sheppard brings expertise in quantitative analysis, and both are experienced in conducting research on college students. Spring semester (2010) provides an excellent opportunity for this joint research. Each collaborator will be teaching two sections of introductory sociology courses, so they will be able to study the variables of interest across four classes while holding course content relatively constant, and will jointly engage in research design, data analysis, and reporting.