What stuck from the Network for Learning Day 2014 (Duisburg, Germany)

Last week was the 2nd Network for Learning Day. The Network for Learning Day was initiated by Sara van Waes (University of Antwerpen), Piet van den Bossche (University of Antwerpen), and Nienke Moolenaar (Utrecht University) as a place for educational scientists (in Europe) who use social network analysis to meet and discuss their research, and receive feedback. Research done by this group centers around professional development (e.g. feedback networks, mentoring network), school effectiveness, and team learning.

After a conference many thoughts swirl in my head. This time I drove two colleagues home, giving me much time to discuss ideas, but not that much to pond over them. After a week, while thinking about the day, three messages keep on going round in my head.

  1. Nienke Moolenaar (Utrecht University) made the point in her keynote about the multiple levels in social network analysis. She raised the questions if we measure them and treat them correctly. For example, trust can be measured via the question “I trust my colleagues”, “I have trust in colleague XYZ”, or “At work, we trust each other”. The take-home message was to be aware of multilevel homology1. The relationship between two concepts can be different at the individual, team, and interpersonal level and these differences need to be taken into account when making decisions about research design. (Interesting addition to that thought is the article by Kozlowski and Klein (2000) on how processes at higher levels emerge from lower levels. These aspects should be considered before deciding how individual answers should be used to create higher level variables. The article by by Harrison and Klein (2007) “What’s the difference: diversity constructs as separation, variety, or disparity in organizations” shouldn’t be left out while making a decision).
  2. Nienke Moolenaar also mentioned that maybe it is time for a new theory on capital. We had human capital, intellectual capital, and now social capital. But I’m a bit puzzled about what that new theory should look like. Maybe a step away from the ‘investment/ resource’ perspective of capital? Not anymore, “what can I get out of my relationships” but “what can we get out of being connected with each other”.
  3. Towards the end of the day Piet van den Bossche stated the wish/need to “understand how we relate, to determine the type of learning which takes place”. In other words, to understand what type of learning takes place (what knowledge is being produced at what speed for what purpose) it is necessary to understand how individuals in a team connect with each other. That connects to my research. For example, in a study I’m observing emergency care staff treat a patient in a simulation setting. While the staff goes through an assessment procedure (ABCDE approach), no observations are alike. At a certain moment, an individual (or sometimes also the team) makes a decision about the diagnoses of the patient. This is the point where the individual/ team learned what is wrong with the patient. This point is important as subsequent steps including medication and specialist treatment are dependent on the accuracy of the diagnoses (and on all team members agreeing with that diagnoses).

1Chen, Bliese, Mathieu (2005). Conceptual Framework and Statistical Procedures for Delineating and Testing Multilevel Theories of Homology.Organizational Research Methods, 8 (4), 375-409, doi:10.1177/1094428105280056.

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