There are more to social networks than Facebook, with a variety of purposes and results. Julie Hite, a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership Foundations of the McKay School of Education, went to Uganda to find out how social networks affect education reform in this third world country. Findings by Hite and her three colleagues were recently published in Social Network Theory and Educational Change, a book published by Harvard Education Press, edited by Alan J. Daly.

Social Network Theory and Educational Change consists of a series of studies examining networks among teachers and school leaders that contrast formal and informal organizational structures and explore how ideas, information, and influence flow among people and groups.

Hite discovered a context of co-opetition operating within the Ugandan headteacher networks. In an environment of fluctuating market conditions, co-opetition is the process of school headteachers establishing cooperative network ties with other headteachers for sharing physical, human, and information resources while at the same time competing with them for financial resources generated from student tuition and fees.

In this study, headteacher networks increase school stability; create critical conduits for acquiring resources, learning, and mentoring; and provide leverage for the development of school-level ties. All of these results lead to enhanced school (student) performance, which gives the schools a better chance at surviving and effectively educating their students.

In line with the theme of the book, Hite’s chapter on “Strategic Co-opetition” proves that education reform is inherently tied to the social relations that are involved in the process of change, not just the change itself. Hite found that during her six-year longitudinal research, most of the social networks had decreased in size and density except for the information network. Hite found this to be logical: “Information is the most easily shared resource as sharing it does not deplete it.”

Julie Hite’s colleagues include Steven Hite, professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations of the McKay School of Education; Christopher B. Mugimu, senior lecturer and Head of the Department of Curriculum Teaching and Media at Makerere University in Uganda; and Yusuf K. Nsubuga, Director of Basic and Secondary Education in Uganda’s Ministry of Education and Sports.

18 April 2011