Network positions in active learning environments in physics


© 2020 authors. This study uses positional analysis to describe the student interaction networks in four research-based introductory physics curricula. Positional analysis is a technique for simplifying the structure of a network into blocks of actors whose connections are more similar to each other than to the rest of the network. This method describes social structure in a way that is comparable between networks of different sizes and densities and can show large-scale patterns such as hierarchy among positions. We detail one positional analysis method and apply it to class sections of Peer Instruction, SCALE-UP, ISLE, and Minnesota Model context-rich problems. At the level of detail shown in the blockmodels, most of the curricula are more alike than different, showing a late-term tendency to form coherent subgroups that communicate actively among themselves but have few interposition links. Initial position assignments tend to change from beginning to end of the term, but in cases where the initial assignment is stable, those students appear to become more connected to each other and to the largest network component. These trends in position structure and stability may be network signatures of active learning classes, but wider data collection is needed to investigate.

Physical Review Physics Education Research