SOCIOMETRY IN THE CLASSROOM:
HOW TO DO IT
SOCIOGRAM INTERPRETATION AND TERMINOLOGY
Giving examples of sociogram terminology is one of the easiest ways of
relating how to interpret a sociogram. All of the examples which follow
are taken from FIGURE 14. One might note that the basic terminology which
follows can be broken down into two categories, Stars, Isolates and Ghosts
(A, B and C) are terms which describe individual children or INDIVIDUAL
PHENOMENA, while mutual choices, chains, islands and triangles (D,
E, F and G) are attributes of social interaction within a group
or GROUP PHENOMENA.
Note the two groupings which seem to have the same construction in FIGURE
14, each with a mutual choice and someone who is just hanging on: Harry
- Jim - Mike and Millard - Sam - Victor. Turn now to FIGURE 16 or 17 and
note the difference between the two groups. The Millard-Sam-Victor group
maintains its individuality, remaining an ISLAND, while the Harry-Jim-Mike
group is much more integrated with the group as a whole and is definitely
no longer an ISLAND as indicated by the many nominations received by Jim
from children outside the original ISLAND configuration. Victor is the
only child in the other island who receives an outside nomination. The
Millard-Sam-Victor combination proves to be a definite sub-group, while
in the Harry-Jim-Mike combination, we see that Mike and Jim are mutual
friends and Harry is an ISOLATE, not accepted even by those whom he nominates.
Looking at Harry's position in FIGURE 17, we can observe that he seems
to be attempting to find acceptance in widely separated groups. This is
not unusual behavior for an ISOLATE who is desperately reaching out. Mike
would also be designated an ISOLATE if it were not for his being chosen
by Jim. Jim is definitely a STAR. Note that Jim is also accepted by Justin's
friends, Sol and Norris, but not by Justin, even though Jim chose Justin.
Actually Jim is the only outsider chosen by the Millard-Sam-Victor ISLAND,
all of whom chose him after themselves. As is indicated by the lines leading
toward his name, Justin is the person of status in this group, accepted
by influential individuals, but not necessarily accepting them. Jim may
very well be exerting more functional leadership with more people than
I. INDIVIDUAL PHENOMENA
A. Stars. When several children "positively" nominate the same person
the many arrows all lead to that person thus emphasizing their "starness".
They are the center or "hub of attraction." We call them "stars." Judy
and Justin are the stars in Figure 14. In the case of a "negative nomination,"
we might want to note the individual with several arrows as a "negative
B. Isolates. Children who have not been "positively" nominated by
anyone in the group are usually defined as "isolates". Note that they have
already been somewhat defined in the discussion of the Target Technique
in STEP 4 (Neglected Children). Placing them on the fringes or outer edges
of the sociogram visually emphasizes there "isolation" within the context
of the classroom group. One could discern their status from the Bar Graph
of STEP 3 or the Target Technique of STEP 4 with no need to see a sociogram,
however, we would not know who their positive nor their negative nominations
are unless we made a sociogram. This is useful information if any intervention
is going to be attempted. This term, ISOLATE, is usually not used to describe
children who receive no "negative" nominations. Children who receive no
positive or negative nominations are called "Ghosts." Of course, if you
do not solicit negative nomination information you will not no the difference
between a "Ghost" and an "Isolate."
C. GHOSTS. As described above in "B" a Ghost is a person who is
not even acknowledged as being in the classroom. Noone positively nominates
them and they receive no negative nominations. However, they do make nominations.
In effect, they might as well not even be in the classroom.
2. GROUP PHENOMENA
D. MUTUAL CHOICES. These consist of pairs of children who chose
each other. In FIGURE 11 we can see that Mike chooses Jim and Sam chose
Victor. If one is not interested in distinguishing between 1st, 2nd and
3rd choices, there may be many mutual choices in a sociogram. The more
there are the more congenial the group is and thus there may be a greater
positive social climate to the classroom. Obviously, mutual negative choices
are dangerous situations to be avoided, corrected by intervention, or at
least used as useful knowledge when grouping children with each other.
E. CHAINS. A chain is when one person nominates another who in turn
nominates another child, etc. Examples from FIGURE 14 would be Garry -
June - Doris - Judy - Nelda. This term is usually reserved for describing
the 1st level nominations only. Chains have a tendency to lead toward a
F. ISLANDS. When pairs (mutual choices) or small groups are separated
from the larger patterns, and members of this group are not nominated by
anyone in other patterns, we describe them as "Islands." Examples in FIGURE
14 would be Victor - Sam - Millard, and Mike - Jim - Harry. Once again,
this term is usually reserved for describing 1st level nominations.
G. TRIANGLES and CIRCLES. When a chain comes back on itself
by having the last person nominate the first, we call it a TRIANGLE if
it involves only three people. If there are more than three people we call
it a CIRCLE. An example of a Triangle in FIGURE 14 would be Norris - Justin
- Sol - Norris.
Looking at the Girl's side of FIGURE 14 note that Laura would
seem to be an ISOLATE, but in FIGURE 16 and 17 she shows up as a star or
co-leader in the group. Also, contrary to Jim among the boys, she is accepted
by the status leaders (those who are chosen by influential individuals
but do not return the compliment). We also have here an example of an ISLAND
pair, Donna - Diane. As can be seen in FIGURE 16 or 17, both Donna and
Diane make identical second and third choices (Laura and Judy). This pattern
of similar choices is not unusual in such situations. There are also two
isolates among this group of girls, Gary and Prudence. Jerri would be an
ISOLATE if it were not that Dael had chosen her. At this age, non-acceptance
by the group and choice of girls by boys is often an indication of immaturity.
This is less likely to be true of Nelda, who also choose a boy, as she
has a high degree of acceptance among the girls, who at this age may prize
maturity, particularly physical maturity. Moreover, since Norris has chosen
her in return, it may be that these two are more mature as 6th graders
than their fellow students.
These example may serve to indicate the type of analyses possible
when a sociogram has been plotted. Such analyses lead to further observation
COEFFICIENT OF CLASSROOM COHESION
Vacha et al (1979) have described group cohesion as:
"...the attraction structure of the classroom and involves not
only individual friendships but also the attractiveness of the whole group
for individual students. In cohesive classrooms, students value their classmates,
are involved with and care about one another, try to help one another,
and are proud of their membership in the group. Student cohesiveness can
either support or undermine educational goals depending on the impact of
other group processes in the classroom. For example, if students share
counter educational norms that limit student participation or undermine
academic achievement, their cohesiveness can work against the academic
goals of the schools by making those norms extremely difficult to change.
If a classroom group develops norms that support academic achievement,
high cohesiveness can enhance education by providing a strong 'we feeling'
which promotes conformity to student norms." (p. 221
Vacha et al (1979) suggest three patterns of classroom social
relations which they believe are typical threats to classroom cohesion.
1. DIVISIVE COMPETITION AMONG INDIVIDUAL STUDENTS. Some classrooms
are so divided by extreme competition among students that they are not
groups at all. Rather, they are merely collections of individuals, each
of whom competes against every other member for grades, the attention,
praise, and approval of the teacher. Most interaction in the classroom
is essentially dyadic - between only two people at a time. Student performance
is often seriously undermined by individual competition. Children rarely
help one another and as a result are often alienated from each other. Their
self esteem and confidence may suffer resulting in their not working up
to their actual potential.
2. DEVELOPMENT OF STUDENT "IN-GROUPS." When a classroom has one
highly cohesive "in-group" that may consist of a majority, the minority
is often excluded or ignored. The "Social Identity Categorization" process
(Tajfel, 1982) may begin to operate in this situation. The very high cohesiveness
of the "in-group" often hinders efforts to encourage inclusion of "out-group"
members. This often results in reciprocal feelings of hostility vis-a-vie
the in-/out-groups. Much energy is wasted by both groups in defending/attacking
the opposition, energy which could be collaboratively directed towards
academic classroom goals. The establishment of what Sherif (1966) has called
"Superordinate goal structures" for the classroom can do much in reducing
the tensions between in- and out-groups. For further information on Cooperative
goal structures one might visit the International Association for the Study
of Cooperative Learning (IASCE) web
site, especially their links to "cooperative learning RESOURCES!
3. SOCIAL CLEAVAGES IN THE CLASSROOM. Another type of in-out-group
structure that often occurs is not necessarily a majority/minority problem.
Both groups have equal status but reciprocally are hostile and reject each
other. An example would be the same-sex preferences for friendship which
often occur in upper elementary school classrooms: eg, the 4th, 5th and
6th grades. Many "ungraded" classroom curriculums utilize heterogeneously
(mixed) age groups. Sherman (1984) has presented evidence that social
cleavages can exist between children of differing ages. Besides sex and
age, ethnicity, athletic interests, rival gangs, fraternity/sorority competition
and many other attributes may cause social cleavages to occur in the classroom.
Upon sociometrically surveying a classroom through the use of the
"positive" and "negative" nomination techniques, one should analyze the
evidence for any serious social cleavages, in-/out-group rivalries and
divisive individual competition which might threaten classroom cohesion.
If these cliques are not present, then the "coefficient of cohesion" ("C")
may be computed. This computation is an indicator of how strong the mutual
ties are among the classroom members, and is based on the obtained number
of mutual choices. Vacha et al (1979) suggest that "There is no objective
criterion that can be used to determine whether or not a given coefficient
of cohesion indicates the existence of a problem in any particular classroom."
However, their experience in administering sociometric measures in many
classrooms at the 4th through 6th grade levels provides a convenient rule
of thumb. The coefficient of cohesion of 19 classes ranged from a high
of 15.58 to a low of 3.83. Their median coefficient was 6.12, and the mean
coefficient was 7.1. Based on their experience you may wish to consider
a class as having a cohesion problem if it's coefficient of cohesion is
below six or seven.
The coefficient of cohesion can be calculated directly from sociometric
data used to diagnose "positive nomination" data. All of the data necessary
are contained in the sociogram (primarily as in FIGURE 16). To calculate
the coefficient of cohesion, simply count the number of mutual positive
choices made by all of the students, the total number of positive choices
made by all of the students, and the number of students who completed the
survey. The coefficient of cohesion can then be calculated using these
totals according to the following formula:
C = Mq/Up = (15*.87)/(57*.13) = 13.05/7.41 = 1.76
RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS
C = the coefficient of cohesion.
M = the total number of mutual positive choices made by the students
(15 in our example).
U = the number of unreciprocated positive choices (the total number
of positive choices minus the number of mutual choices (M). In our example
24 students each giving three nominations (24 x 3) U = 72 - 15 = 57.
p = d/(N-1) where d is the number of positive choices allowed (in
our example 3) and N is the number of students completing the survey. Thus,
for a class of 24 completing a three-choice positive nomination sociometric
survey, such as in our example: p = 3/(24-1) = .13
q = 1 - p = 1-.13 = .87
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