Indexed on: 20 Dec '18Published on: 20 Dec '18Published in: PloS one
This study examined how classroom peer relations can be described in terms of the network of help relations among students, and the positions students take up in this help network, and whether the structure of adolescent classroom help networks and individual network positions were associated with academic achievement. Help networks were based on the peer nomination question "Who helps you with problems?" Building on previous studies on classroom climate and individual network position, higher academic achievement was expected in classrooms with: a dense help network; no or a few network isolates (referring to students that did not give or receive help at all); less segmentation in help relations; equally distributed help nominations. In addition, higher achievement was expected for individuals with more helpers and a more central position in the help network. Using the Dutch SNARE data (54 classrooms; 1,144 students), the multilevel models suggested that lower achievement was related to an unequal distribution of help relations in a classroom. Moreover, the centrality of individuals in the help network was linked to higher achievement. Classrooms varied strongly on network dimensions, and networks that would theoretically be expected to be most beneficial for achievement (with high density, a few isolates, low segmentation, and high equality) turned out to be highly uncommon. The findings demonstrated that subtle network processes were relevant for academic success, and that classroom network characteristics are associated with classroom-level variation in academic achievement. Descriptive results underlined the complexity of the social context of classrooms, and the absence of 'beneficial' classrooms suggests that researchers should adjust their notion of what is a beneficial or detrimental classroom environment for adolescents.