Turning groups inside out: a social network perspective

Rienties, Bart and Tempelaar, Dirk (2018). Turning groups inside out: a social network perspective. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 27(4) pp. 550–579.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10508406.2017.1398652


Most research related to learning in groups focuses on the unit of the group and/or its group members. However, students may benefit from crossing the boundaries of their own group, as students in different groups may provide access to new, non-redundant knowledge and opportunities for learning. Whether boundary crossing between groups is beneficial or not for learning and academic performance has received limited conceptual and empirical attention. Using SNA and SEM modelling, we contrasted pre-post network developments amongst 683 students (132 groups) across four modules at a UK business school. We examined whether it is better for students to invest in social relations in groups to learn and enhance academic performance, or if it is better to (continue to) invest in social relations outside groups. Our findings indicated that students seemed to learn more from learning relations outside their group than from their own group members. Students with more inter-group relative to intra-group learning relations performed better on module assessments and throughout the academic year than students with more intra-group learning relations. Boundary crossing and inter-group learning deserves more empirical attention and experimentation on how to balance boundary crossing and effective group learning strategies.

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