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Integration in emerging social networks explains academic failure and success


Stadtfeld, Christoph; Vörös, András; Elmer, Timon; Boda, Zsófia; Raabe, Isabel J (2019). Integration in emerging social networks explains academic failure and success. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(3):792-797.

Abstract

Academic success of students has been explained with a variety of individual and socioeconomic factors. Social networks that informally emerge within student communities can have an additional effect on their achievement. However, this effect of social ties is difficult to measure and quantify, because social networks are multidimensional and dynamically evolving within the educational context. We repeatedly surveyed a cohort of 226 engineering undergraduates between their first day at university and a crucial examination at the end of the academic year. We investigate how social networks emerge between previously unacquainted students and how integration in these networks explains academic success. Our study measures multiple important dimensions of social ties between students: their positive interactions, friendships, and studying relations. By using statistical models for dynamic network data, we are able to investigate the processes of social network formation in the cohort. We find that friendship ties informally evolve into studying relationships over the academic year. This process is crucial, as studying together with others, in turn, has a strong impact on students’ success at the examination. The results are robust to individual differences in socioeconomic background factors and to various indirect measures of cognitive abilities, such as prior academic achievement and being perceived as smart by other students. The findings underline the importance of understanding social network dynamics in educational settings. They call for the creation of university environments promoting the development of positive relationships in pursuit of academic success.

Abstract

Academic success of students has been explained with a variety of individual and socioeconomic factors. Social networks that informally emerge within student communities can have an additional effect on their achievement. However, this effect of social ties is difficult to measure and quantify, because social networks are multidimensional and dynamically evolving within the educational context. We repeatedly surveyed a cohort of 226 engineering undergraduates between their first day at university and a crucial examination at the end of the academic year. We investigate how social networks emerge between previously unacquainted students and how integration in these networks explains academic success. Our study measures multiple important dimensions of social ties between students: their positive interactions, friendships, and studying relations. By using statistical models for dynamic network data, we are able to investigate the processes of social network formation in the cohort. We find that friendship ties informally evolve into studying relationships over the academic year. This process is crucial, as studying together with others, in turn, has a strong impact on students’ success at the examination. The results are robust to individual differences in socioeconomic background factors and to various indirect measures of cognitive abilities, such as prior academic achievement and being perceived as smart by other students. The findings underline the importance of understanding social network dynamics in educational settings. They call for the creation of university environments promoting the development of positive relationships in pursuit of academic success.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Sociology
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Uncontrolled Keywords:Multidisciplinary
Language:English
Date:15 January 2019
Deposited On:06 Feb 2019 10:07
Last Modified:06 Feb 2019 10:16
Publisher:National Academy of Sciences
ISSN:0027-8424
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1811388115
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNF
  • : Grant ID10001A_169965
  • : Project TitleWe succeed and fail together: The emergence of informal groups and their effects on individual goals, motivation, and performance
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDBSSGI0_155981
  • : Project TitleSocial norms, cooperation and conflict in scientific collaborations

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