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.