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Making Sense of Social Networks in Schools

Making Sense of Social Networks in Schools

Foreword by Guilbert C. Hentschke

December 2008 | 176 pages | Corwin

"It is refreshing to see a volume dedicated first and foremost to understanding and building human relationships in schools. By developing strong networks, schools can foster open systems committed to distributive leadership and exemplary academic outcomes."
—Sharon Conley, Professor
University of California, Santa Barbara

Discover how to navigate your school's social networks to maximize communication and collaboration!

Social networks reflect the usually invisible relationships that control the flow of information and power within a school. This compelling guide provides school leaders with an understanding of the real relationships within their schools and how to use their social savvy to promote school goals.

This resource examines the types of social networks typically found in schools and provides samples of social network maps, steps for developing your own maps, and practical advice for managing social networks effectively. Learn how to leverage the power of:

  • Task networks determined by work roles and organizational structure
  • Friendship networks based on relationships between staff members
  • Power networks that can influence opinions and resources
  • Culture networks that can help unite staff

By understanding the many relationships that contribute to a school's culture, leaders can cultivate innovative ideas, enhance teacher capacity, manage conflict, and get things done.

About the Authors
Foreword by Guilbert Hentschke
Preface: What's in a Song?
Lyrics to Green Door
Introduction: The New Principal Encounters a Locked Door: Through a Smoky Cloud
Outside Looking In

Overview of the Book

1. A Glimmer of Networks: Saw an Eyeball Peepin'
Business Research

Predominance of Networks

Impact on Schools

Misreading Clues

The Context of Leadership

Managing Networks

Finding Direction

2. Network Basics: Green Door, What’s That Secret You’re Keepin’
Nuts and Bolts

Network Players

Whole Networks

The Key to the Green Door

3. Limitations of Task Networks: Door Slammed, Hospitality's Thin There
Searching for the Boss

Turned Down by the Boss

No Access

Finding Access



Stephanie Relaxes the Rule Book

4. Friendship Networks: The Happy Crowd
Finding Friends

Someone Who Understands Me

Someone Convenient

The Impact of Comfortable Connections

Emotional Contagion

Informal Induction

Jasmine’s Cost-Benefit Decision

Friendship and Productivity

Antipathy and Its Problems

The Blessings and Curses of Friendship Networks

5. Power Networks: Wish They’d Let Me In
Politics as Usual

Power Stars

Power as Perception

Power Players

Baskets and Eggs

Working the Power Networks

Principals as Politicians

6. Culture Networks: They Laugh a Lot Behind the Green Door
Stories and Traditions

Ties That Bind

The Way Things Are Done Around Here

Tribal Leaders, Mavericks, Mavens, Gossips, and Spies

The Door Ajar

Cultural Players

Trust Thy Neighbor

The Spirit Moves Her: A Principal Assumes the Dais

The Ghost of Garvey

A Bonding Moment

Reflecting on Garvey’s Green Door

7. Scoping and Working the Networks: Midnight, One More Night Without Sleepin’
Promises and Caveats of Network Study

Beyond Individual Players

Learning Communities, Culture, and Communication

Making Sense of School Networks

Opening a Can of Worms: Big Brother or the Future of Leadership

Inside the Green Door

Appendix: Research on Networks in Sociology, Business, and Education
Network Literature

Network and Related Literature in Education

Our Endeavors in Social Network Analysis


"In an era of accountability and simplistic management 'quick fixes,' it is refreshing to see a volume dedicated first and foremost to understanding and building human relationships in schools. By developing strong networks, schools can foster open systems committed to distributive leadership and exemplary academic outcomes."

Sharon Conley, Professor
University of California, Santa Barbara

"The important message of this book—that tasks and people are important, but an understanding of power relationships and cultural bonds are crucial to effective leadership—is a message that must be understood by all who work to improve learning for all students in our schools."

Stuart E. Gothold, Clinical Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California
Former Superintendent, Los Angeles County Schools

"Provides an intriguing insight into the reality and power of the human relationships that exist in our schools. This work offers alternative strategies for getting things done just as it proposes a new paradigm for thinking about the fundamental organization of the school. Readers will think about how they can lead most effectively with a new and challenging perspective."

Joanne Rooney, Codirector
Midwest Principals' Center

"The authors have created a useful, practical, and compelling guide for school and district leaders as they navigate the complexities of school environments. They skillfully guide the reader to manage the school culture in ways to support student achievement and overall school improvement. The authors provide tools, strategies, and resources for site and district administrators to collect and analyze data about one of the most important and often-ignored resources: social capital."

Delores B. Lindsey, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership
California State University, San Marcos

"A unique book in that it makes the invisible but powerful human dynamics among staff members within a school more transparent and user-friendly."

Joy St. Pierre
School Social Work Journal, September 2010 (Vol. 35, No. 1)

This book is easy to read for BA students. Who reads this, might get interested in studying social networks or sociological problems of education more deeply.

Dr Karoly Takacs
Institute of Sociol, Corvinus University of Budapest
December 19, 2011

May use this text for a more advanced research course.

Dr Tirupalavanam Ganesh
School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, Arizona State University - Tempe
September 26, 2011
Key features
  • A running story throughout the book anchors the concepts of social network analysis in the everyday experiences of school leaders' professional lives, is built from the authors' research using social network analysis in schools and other organizations, and shows how to use these networks to benefit students and the entire learning community
  • Numerous social network maps graphically illustrate various types of networks and show the relationships among the various players in each network
  • The book helps leaders develop their own school's social network maps using multiple strategies including interviews, surveys, and data analysis
  • Readers will find numerous strategies and practical advice for managing the social networks in their schools to foster collegial learning communities and promote school improvement

For instructors

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