The Development of Social Capital Among College Faculty: Investigating Teaching-Focused Personal Networks and Instructional Practice

WCER Working Paper No. 2020-9

Ross J. Benbow and Changhee Lee

October 2020, 53 pp.

ABSTRACT: Scholars recognize that K–12 teachers’ social interactions, particularly within teaching-focused relationships, are important to professional development. This is true whether discussions take place in formal or informal settings. Few studies, however, seek to link the teaching-focused relationships of college faculty directly to their instructional practice, nor to explore perceptions of what these relationships entail and how they influence teaching at the college level. Using surveys (n=868), interviews (n=83), and a social capital theoretical framework, this mixed-methods social network analysis explores associations between teaching-focused “personal networks”—compilations of relationships surrounding individual faculty—and the use of evidence-based instructional methods. We also explore faculty perceptions of how network interactions shape their teaching. Quantitative results indicate that the size, range, and strength of faculty teaching-focused personal networks positively correlate with the use of evidence-based instructional methods, while qualitative results point to the ways faculty see different kinds of network ties, relational mechanisms and objects, and returns influencing teaching practice.

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keywords: faculty development, social capital, personal networks, higher education, teaching, noncognitive skills