Investigating Student Communities with Network Analysis of Interactions in a Physics Learning Center


We describe our initial efforts at implementing social network analysis to visualize and quantify student interactions in Florida International University's Physics Learning Center. Developing a sense of community among students is one of the three pillars of an overall reform effort to increase participation in physics, and the sciences more broadly, at FIU. Our implementation of a research and learning community, embedded within a course reform effort, has led to increased recruitment and retention of physics majors. Finn and Rock [1997] link the academic and social integration of students to increased rates of retention. To identify these interactions, we have initiated an investigation that utilizes social network analysis to identify primary community participants. Community interactions are then characterized through the network's density and connectivity, shedding light on learning communities and participation. Preliminary results, further research questions, and future directions utilizing social network analysis are presented. © American Institute of Physics.

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