Learning in school networks – teacher collaboration for school development in the context of education in a digital world

Marco Hasselkuß, Manuela Endberg

Contact: marco.hasselkuss@uni-due.de

Current and future societal changes – e.g. induced by the increasingly digitalised world – present new requirements also to educational systems, expecting them to enable people to understand and shape such change processes. In the ongoing research project “DigiSchoolNet – Digital School Development in Networks”, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany and carried out at the University of Duisburg-Essen, communication and collaboration of teachers is analysed in and between schools working together in networks. The networks aim to support school development processes for addressing new societal challenges: here understood especially in the context of digitalisation. Collaboration, knowledge flow and learning, both in networks between schools and e.g. educational administration or universities as well as within the participating schools, is analysed in a longitudinal study of teachers’ professional ego-centric networks. The objective is to investigate the relevance of relations and communication structures for transfer processes regarding school development in the context of digitalisation. As the theoretical lens, we draw on the concept of teacher collaboration taking on three forms: (1) Exchange (e.g. informing each other about new developments and exchanging materials), (2) division of work (e.g. preparing lessons or exams together) and (3) co-construction (aligning individual knowledge so that new knowledge or common solutions are developed); increasing levels of goal interdependence and trust and decreasing teacher autonomy qualify the forms. The following main research questions are addressed: 1. Which forms of collaboration (exchange, division of work, co-construction) can be observed in the course of time in the school networks and in individual schools? 2. In how far can connections between forms of collaboration and areas of school development be observed? 3. How and under which conditions is knowledge further transported within the individual schools? The suggested contribution will focus on methodological considerations of gathering ego-centric network data online, specifically in a longitudinal design with several measurement points (every three months for three years), concerning high burden on respondents and possible solutions like graphical support for data collection. Five schools from each network (N = 20) participate with a minimum of one teacher from each school. The open source software tool Graphical Ego-Centered Network Survey Interface (GENSI) was adapted to the needs of the project to support respondents and aim for high data quality. GENSI was chosen because it offers possible solutions to several known issues of network data collection: graphical support for participants to make the questionnaire more enjoyable, addressing question order effects and problems of (visually) eliciting ego-network structure. The outcomes of adapting the online survey tool to teachers’ professional networks will be introduced. The tool will be published as open source software again for future use in research. Furthermore, intermediate findings from the study will be presented. Data is analysed to draw network maps of teachers over time and look for network structures and features.

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