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Making Sense of Communities of Practice with Social and Epistemic Network analysis

A team of researchers led by Dr Nataša Pantić at University of Edinburgh, employ new network approaches to study how teachers’ practices shape and are shaped by their social networks within and beyond schools. The aim is to understand how CoPs emerge from teachers’ day-to-day interactions with colleagues, families, and other professionals as they seek to improve all students’ learning and schooling experiences.

Background

Teachers’ collaboration with others (e.g. colleagues, families, and other professionals) is an essential aspect of their agency for change. Communities of Practice (CoPs) – a form of collaboration characterised by shared purposes and mutual support – can make a difference in student outcomes, including but not limited to achievement, especially for vulnerable learners. But how do teachers build such communities in the first place? 

A team of researchers led by Dr Nataša Pantić at University of Edinburgh, employ new network approaches to study how teachers’ practices shape and are shaped by their social networks within and beyond schools. The aim is to understand how CoPs emerge from teachers’ day-to-day interactions with colleagues, families, and other professionals as they seek to improve all students’ learning and schooling experiences. 

Why is this research important for schools and teachers?

Institutional cultures can powerfully enable or constrain individual practices. Relationships that form those cultures are partly created by school staff themselves in their day-to-day interactions. Understanding how teachers build and sustain appropriate relationships can be significant for building school environments that support change and innovation.

We are particularly interested in how teachers can build inclusive school communities that promote the learning and wellbeing of all students and staff. While teachers are often committed to equality and inclusion, they themselves need support to address barriers to learning that some students may be experiencing. By making visible teachers’ networks this research helps locate particular sources of support or expertise within school community.

What does the participation in this research involve?

We ask all teachers in a school to fill out a web-based log that asks teachers to reflect on a particular situation and how people they approached supported them. Teachers are asked to contribute at least one log entry each school term over three school terms. The school staff will have an opportunity to receive anonymised research feedback that can be used in professional development. 

Research Team

Principal Investigator:

Dr Nataša Pantić

Lecturer in Education, University of Edinburgh

 
Charteris Land, Rm 4.15, EH8 8AQ.
Email: natasa.pantic@ed.ac.uk Tel: +44(0)131 651 6626

Co-Investigators:

Dr Gil Viry
Lecturer in Sociology, University of Edinburgh
Professor Dragan Gašević
Chair in Learning Analytics, Monash University
Dr Srećko Joksimović

Data scientist, University of South Australia

Advisory Board Members:

Head Teacher and a Teacher from the participating school (anonymous)
 
Professor Lani Florian
Bell Chair in Education, University of Edinburgh
Professor Maarten de Laat

The University of Wollongong

Professor David Williamson Shaffer

Chair in Learning Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Research Assistant

Sarah Galey

Funder

ESRC and SGSSS Supervisor-led scholarship

Start date 2019
End date 2022

Related link

 Projects under Teachers as Agents of Change