TRAC - A tool for social network based interventions in schools
Natasa PanticThis paper introduces an on-line log for Teachers’ Reflection on their Agency for Change (TRAC) designed to collect data and provide automatic visual feedback on teachers’ social networks. The TRAC tool has been developed within a project that aimed to facilitate teachers’ professional reflection on how they use their relational agency to build inclusive school communities. Relational agency is defined as teachers’ capacity to work purposefully with others within and beyond schools to support all learners, especially those at risk of exclusion.Teachers’ reaching out to others and mobilising their social networks is an essential part of such agency.
Relationships with students, families, colleagues and other professionals such as health or social workers are key for building ‘protective networks’ around vulnerable students. The relational structures, or social networks, mediate the opportunities and constraints for exercising agency within given context, e.g. depending on the levels of trust and influence teachers have in their school communities. In this view, school-based social networks are dynamic and, at least in part, dependent on the relational agency of teachers. Teachers’ interactions with others for a specific purpose are conceptualized as building blocks for creating more stable social network structures over time, which in turn shape future interactions. In this context, TRAC is designed to facilitate professional reflection on teachers’ relational agency by raising teachers’ network awareness – knowledge of resources embedded in their social ties that can facilitate teachers’ network intentionality – towards building communities of inclusive practice.
The on-line log asks teachers to reflect on specific situations in which they interacted with others to collect data on the purposes and impact of their relational agency. The tool also provides teachers with automatic feedback on their personal networks. This includes a visual representation of their ego networks with guidance for interpreting their network’s properties, such as number of ties, alters’ roles, and types of interaction. The aim of the intervention is to help teachers understand the impact of their relationships on building communities of inclusive practice – a shared understanding and mutual support for building school cultures that promote all students’ learning and participation.
The project involved data collection and trial interventions in two schools which had initiatives to promote teacher collaboration. Teachers from each school (23+32) completed the log three times at roughly two-month intervals during the 2018-2019 school year. The data from these sites was used to develop and make adjustments to the prototype tool. Teachers who filled out the log were able to see their ego network properties for each log entry, including specific interactions they reported. After the completion of three logs we organised a workshop in each school to discuss the nature of teachers’ networks and their implications for school community building. We present examples of teachers’ professional reflection and discuss the opportunities and challenges these interventions presented for research and professional learning, including changes in relational practices resulting from engagement with the network feedback. We also discuss ethical considerations and potential adjustments for uses across professional fields.