The contribution of Social Network Analysis in conceptualizing school failure: A methodological reflection on an exploratory inquiry


  • Caterina Bembich Department of Humanistic Studies, University of Trieste



This paper presents the rationale for adopting Social Network Analysis (SNA), as a methodology for inquiring into the complex system of causal factors that impacts on the scholastic achievements of at-risk students. SNA provides an analytical perspective that can be contextualized within a socio-cultural theoretical model, by considering development as a factor that is closely interconnected with the cultural, social and relational environment in which the student is immersed. The unit of concern in Social Network Analysis is the pattern of social relationships, constituted by connections, boundaries and gaps among educational communities. Through the use of SNA, it is possible to investigate the structure of social relationships that influence the learning paths of students at-risk of school failure, and the processes and underlying dynamics.
In this contribution, the role of SNA is examined by reference to an ongoing research with students at risk of school failure in a professional school. We report an exploratory inquiry in which the SNA is applied to highlight the development of the social relationships in a class of students, during the course of a group activity in a vulnerable school context (developed inside the FAMI-IMPACT FVG 2018-2020 project). The SNA highlights the role that innovative activities can have in sustaining interdependence and reciprocity among students and support their motivation to learn.