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Birds of a Feather?
Do Participants’ Hierarchical Positions activate Homophily
within Communities of Learning?
Dr. Martin Rehm, Prof. Wim Gijselaers, Prof. Mien Segers
15th Biennial EARLI Conference
München, 27 August 2013
Training in Organizations
Community of Learning
groups of diverse people “engaging in collaborative learning and
reflective practice involved in transformative learning”
(Paloff and Pratt, 2003, p. 17)
“Birds of a Feather”
(McPherson, Smith-Lovin, & Cook, 2001)
Homophily
• “the principle that a contact between similar people occurs at a
higher rate than among dissimilar people.”
(McPherson, Smith-Lovin, & Cook, 2001, p. 416)
• homophily can stem from individuals’ membership to a
certain organizational unit
(e.g. Borgatti & Foster, 2003)
 Status Homophily
(Lazarsfeld & Merton, 1954)
Pro(s)
• improve the
coordination process
(Ancona & Caldwell, 1992)
• limit the potential
occurrence of conflicts
(Pelled, Eisenhardt, & Xin, 1999)
Con(s)
• prevent organizations from
effectively stimulating an
interpersonal knowledge
transfer among employees
from diverse backgrounds
(Akkerman, Admiraal, Simons, & Niessen, 2006)
Hierarchical Positions
• information flows in learning networks are often
constrained by formal structures
(e.g. Cross, Laseter, Parker, & Velasquez, 2006)
• occupying high-level positions within an organization
provides individuals with an intrinsic attraction to lower
level management
(Casciaro, 1998)
• individuals might prefer to seek help from socially
proximate others to reduce the risk of appearing
incompetent
(Bamberger, 2009)
Participants’ Hierarchical Positions activate
Homophily within Communities of Learning
Setting
• online training program of a large international
organization
• 14 weeks of online learning
• 25 CoL
– 249 participants  ~ 10 participants per CoL
– Hierarchical Positions: 82 “Low”, 93 “Middle”, 74
“High”
• asynchronous discussions forums:
– Café-Talk
– Content-Related (real-life tasks)
Instruments
Social Network Analysis
• External – Internal Index
 ranges from -1 (all ties are internal) to +1 (all ties are external)
Read Networks & Reply Networks
(Daradoumis, Martínez-Monés, & Xhafa, 2004)
E-I Read
E-I Reply
Discussion
• No Homophily (rather “externalness”)
 CoL can foster transactive knowledge transfer
• Read Networks (Passive Learning)
– equally distributed
• Reply Networks (Active Learning)
– high degree of fluctuation
• scaffolding activities that structure the learning and
interaction processes of participants
(e.g. Beers, Boshuizen, Kirschner, & Gijselaers, 2005; Weinberger & Fischer, 2006)
• asking facilitators to possibly:
– “smoothen out” observed fluctuations
– decrease “selective reading process”
– actively engage all participants
Recommendations
rehm@merit.unu.edu

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Birds of a Feather? - Do Participants’ Hierarchical Positions activate Homophily within Communities of Learning?

  • 1. Birds of a Feather? Do Participants’ Hierarchical Positions activate Homophily within Communities of Learning? Dr. Martin Rehm, Prof. Wim Gijselaers, Prof. Mien Segers 15th Biennial EARLI Conference München, 27 August 2013
  • 3. Community of Learning groups of diverse people “engaging in collaborative learning and reflective practice involved in transformative learning” (Paloff and Pratt, 2003, p. 17)
  • 4. “Birds of a Feather” (McPherson, Smith-Lovin, & Cook, 2001)
  • 5. Homophily • “the principle that a contact between similar people occurs at a higher rate than among dissimilar people.” (McPherson, Smith-Lovin, & Cook, 2001, p. 416) • homophily can stem from individuals’ membership to a certain organizational unit (e.g. Borgatti & Foster, 2003)  Status Homophily (Lazarsfeld & Merton, 1954)
  • 6. Pro(s) • improve the coordination process (Ancona & Caldwell, 1992) • limit the potential occurrence of conflicts (Pelled, Eisenhardt, & Xin, 1999) Con(s) • prevent organizations from effectively stimulating an interpersonal knowledge transfer among employees from diverse backgrounds (Akkerman, Admiraal, Simons, & Niessen, 2006)
  • 8. • information flows in learning networks are often constrained by formal structures (e.g. Cross, Laseter, Parker, & Velasquez, 2006) • occupying high-level positions within an organization provides individuals with an intrinsic attraction to lower level management (Casciaro, 1998) • individuals might prefer to seek help from socially proximate others to reduce the risk of appearing incompetent (Bamberger, 2009)
  • 9. Participants’ Hierarchical Positions activate Homophily within Communities of Learning
  • 10. Setting • online training program of a large international organization • 14 weeks of online learning • 25 CoL – 249 participants  ~ 10 participants per CoL – Hierarchical Positions: 82 “Low”, 93 “Middle”, 74 “High” • asynchronous discussions forums: – Café-Talk – Content-Related (real-life tasks)
  • 11. Instruments Social Network Analysis • External – Internal Index  ranges from -1 (all ties are internal) to +1 (all ties are external) Read Networks & Reply Networks (Daradoumis, Martínez-Monés, & Xhafa, 2004)
  • 14.
  • 15. Discussion • No Homophily (rather “externalness”)  CoL can foster transactive knowledge transfer • Read Networks (Passive Learning) – equally distributed • Reply Networks (Active Learning) – high degree of fluctuation
  • 16. • scaffolding activities that structure the learning and interaction processes of participants (e.g. Beers, Boshuizen, Kirschner, & Gijselaers, 2005; Weinberger & Fischer, 2006) • asking facilitators to possibly: – “smoothen out” observed fluctuations – decrease “selective reading process” – actively engage all participants Recommendations

Editor's Notes

  1. Individuals who  are highly central tend  also  to  interact with  others  who  are highly central,  making it difficult  to  determine  whether  their perceptions  are due  to  an  advantageous  location in the  informal hierarchy or, instead,  to  specific  social  influences  from their highly central network  contacts.    People  on-the  periphery of  a social  network  (e.g.,  actors  X, Y, and Z), however,  are far removed  from the  social  or normative influence  of the  core  of  the  network.  They  may  have  similar views  that  reflect  their low  power  and integration, or they  may  instead  hold vastly  divergent  opinions  that can only be  explained  as  a function  of  social  interaction within their local subcultures.
  2. Status instead of value homophily
  3. The E-I Index was calculated by taking the number of ties of a group member to outsiders, subtracting the number of ties to other group members, and divided these by the total number of ties. The resulting index ranges from -1 (all ties are internal to the groups) to +1 (all ties are external to the group)
  4. The E-I Index was calculated by taking the number of ties of a group member to outsiders, subtracting the number of ties to other group members, and divided these by the total number of ties. The resulting index ranges from -1 (all ties are internal to the groups) to +1 (all ties are external to the group)
  5. The E-I Index was calculated by taking the number of ties of a group member to outsiders, subtracting the number of ties to other group members, and divided these by the total number of ties. The resulting index ranges from -1 (all ties are internal to the groups) to +1 (all ties are external to the group)
  6. The E-I Index was calculated by taking the number of ties of a group member to outsiders, subtracting the number of ties to other group members, and divided these by the total number of ties. The resulting index ranges from -1 (all ties are internal to the groups) to +1 (all ties are external to the group)