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Topic: "MSPnet Academy:Using Social Network Analysis"

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MSPnet Academy Discussion
June 6 - June 20, 2013

Bill Zoellick, Education Research Director, SERC Institute

MSPnet Academy: Using Social Network Analysis to Study How Teacher Communities of Practice Affect Science Curricula Enactment

A primary mission of the MainePSP is improving science teaching practice in rural settings by building and training a community of educators. The core mechanism for improving teaching practice has been formation of three teacher communities that enact common curricula materials across diverse, rural settings in grades 6-9. Consequently, study of the relationship between community participation and changes in teaching practice is a primary research focus. Social network analysis (SNA) is central to the research design. In this session we introduce key issues and questions that have emerged in application of SNA to the study of teacher communities, and we initiate an ongoing online conversation with participants to improve sharing of SNA know-how and research findings across MSP projects.

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Engagement with the private website?

posted by: Heidi Larson on 6/17/2013 8:58 am

>THEN (and we find this to be exciting) -- the next most important means of connection (32% of relationships) is on our private website set up to support teacher collaboration

That is exciting! What kinds of support and encouragement did you use to get teachers engaged in the private website? So often these get built and then nobody visits...
Thanks if you still have time to respond.

Encouraging online community use

posted by: Bill Zoellick on 6/19/2013 9:23 am

Heidi --

That is a really good question. You are right ... getting teachers (or anyone else) to use an online community can be notoriously difficult.

I think that use of the MainePSP community site was due to a couple of factors:

* During the summer we support teachers with stipends and housing to spend several weeks on the University of Maine campus to work together on creating outlines, guides, tip sheets, and other resource materials that ALL of the teachers in the project can use as they implement the curriculum over the course of the school year. The teachers create and publish those support materials on the community site. So ... other teachers have reason to spend time on the site because there is good stuff created by their colleagues there.

* We have offered teachers additional stipend support if they actively journal about their experiences as they implement the curriculum. A few teachers in the initial cohort were very active in posting weekly reports about what worked -- and -- often -- about what was not working so well. For example, teachers ran into difficulties with the quality of the propeller cars and other materials used in one unit where students were studying force and motion. So, journal entries included things like tips for strengthening ramps used to launch the cars. Even though only about a half dozen teachers were very active in writing, we know from interviews that ALL of the teachers were active in reading the posts. (For what it is worth ... and for reasons we do not yet fully understand ... journaling activity declined during the second year of implementation.)

In summary ... it seems the key to getting teachers to use a community site is the same as the key to getting the general public to use a site ... you need good content. In our case, getting content meant supporting teachers as teachers in residence and as "correspondents" to create the content.

-- Bill