SOCIOMETRY IN THE CLASSROOM:

HOW TO DO IT


Lawrence W. Sherman, Ph.D.

Professor of Educational Psychology

Department of Educational Psychology

School of Education and Allied Professions

Miami University

Oxford, Ohio 45056

Phone: (513) 529-6642

FAX: (513) 529-3646

e-mail: SHERMALW@MUOHIO.EDU


TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION SOCIOGRAMS ARE? WHAT IS A SOCIOGRAM
THE DATA BASE HOW TO CHART A SOCIOGRAM STEP 1
STEP 2 STEP 3 STEP 4
STEP 5 STEP 6 STEP 7
STEP 8 STEP 9 STEP 10
STEP 11 STEP 12 STEP 13-14
STEP 15 STEP 16 SOCIOGRAM INTERPRETATION
VARIATIONS THE RECOGNITION SCALE NON-VERBAL TECHNIQUES
ANOTHER WAY: THE COI &;DODGE TECHNIQUE SOCIAL DISTANCE SOCIOMETRIC RANKING
OBSERVATIONAL SCHEMES APPENDICES References
Walsh's Sociometry program download Walsh's Sociogram Program Website


 

INTRODUCTION


During the late 1920's and on into the 1930's two sociologists, Bogardus (1928) and Moreno (1934), because of their interests in inter-group conflict and interpersonal attraction, developed quantifiable measuring techniques which were later to be called "sociometrics." Bogardus and Moreno were primarily interested in how recent immigrants to the United States adapted to their new environment and became accepted by other non-immigrant citizens. Other researchers such as Sheriff (1936) had similar interests in the psychology of social norms. Kurt Lewin's (1931) interests in "group climates" led him to develop certain experimental methods (Lewin, Lippitt, &;White, 1930). For further insight into this interesting period of development, Peter Renshaw (1981) has provided one of the best overviews of these historical trends in his article "The roots of Peer Interaction Research: A Historical Analysis of the 1930's, p. 1-25.). Willard Hartup's (1992) recent ERIC DIGEST is another example of a more recent description of the importance of peer friendship issues.

Many of these research techniques were quickly adapted to public school classroom usage and by the end of the 1950's two important books became the primary references for those interested in the classroom group process, Fritz Redl and William Wattenberg (1959) devoted an entire chapter of their classic book Mental Hygiene In Teaching, to "Group Life in the Classroom." Norman Gronlund also published his influential book,Sociometry in the Classroom in 1959.

After the "Equality of Educational Opportunity Report" (1966), sometimes referred to as the "Coleman Report," was released, several court decisions resulted in the racial integration of many public schools. At this time the concerns of many researchers became focused upon intergroup relations in the public school classrooms. With the advent of Public Law 94-142, sometimes known as the "mainstreaming" law, similar interests in the integration of handicapped children into regular or normal classrooms became an important interest for researchers. In the 1990's the term "inclusion" was being used to describe similar processes. Thus, throughout the 1970's and continuing well into the 1990's many research activities continue to be interested in the well being and health of classroom groups and the individuals who occupy these groups.

 Especially during the 1980's several books and research articles have been produced which have demonstrated much refinement in the techniques of sociometric measurement, and have also given us further insights into both individuals and group processes. Steve Asher and John Gottman's (1981) book, The Development of Children's Friendships, and the entire Summer issue of the Merrill-Palmer Quarterly (1983) offer a great wealth of information concerning theoretical and empirical information about sociometry. One important contribution in this area is Children's Peer Relations: Issues in Assessment and Intervention (Schneider, Rubin &;Ledingham, 1985).

 Past research is indicating that healthy classroom climates also appear to be related and likely to enhance overall classroom academic achievement (Schmuck &;Schmuck, 1996). There are curriculum which have been developed which can improve classroom climates: for example Vacha, McDonald, Coburn &;Black's (1979) book, Improving Classroom Social Climate. Coie and Dodge (1983) have presented evidence that children's social status, developmentally across time, remains quite stable, especially children who are not accepted by their peers. This social rejection has been shown to be a strong predictor of classroom absences, later school drop-outs, and a variety of other socio-emotional problems. Two recent "meta-analyses" (Newcomb, Bukowski &;Pattee, 1993; Newcomb &;Bagwell, 1995) bring together a rather large body of research that summerize past findings. These children have been described as being "socially at risk." Many of these findings have lead researchers towards developing a variety of intervention techniques, directed at both groups as well as individuals. The examination of basic social skills or competencies, which appear to be strongly related to peer social attraction, have lead to some vary promising intervention approaches.

Early identification of children likely to be experiencing social rejection and peer neglect is desirable. As in the case of early identification of developmentally handicapped children - sometimes described as "children at risk" - children who are not accepted by their peers may be thought of as being "socially at risk," too. Inasmuch as the sociometric measurement techniques have been refined and become somewhat easy to administer, school districts and classroom teaching have once again become interested in sociometry. Norman Gronlund has written an excellent paper rationalizing the importance of sociometric measurement in the school environment. Also, Judith R. Harris' (1998) recent book, The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do, is also emphasizing the importance of peer culture.

Teachers know that the groups of children they work with are more than an aggregation of individuals. They know that the groups have form and structure: that there are patterns of sub-groups, cliques, and specific friendships. Some children are liked by their group more than others. Some are also less liked and often even rejected by their group. The patterns of friendship and rejection play an important role in determining how the group will react to learning situations, and to various types of group management techniques which teachers might wish to use.

Although teachers are aware of the obvious and dramatic aspects of group structure, the more subtle inter-personal relationships may be difficult to detect. A variety of sociometric techniques are designed to bring these relationships into view. Sociograms derived from "positive" and "negative" nomination techniques and social distance Ratings are two means by which professionals may gain some insight into these relationships. The use of these techniques are but a means to further study in most cases. Understanding group structure is but a step toward studying group dynamics, and understanding group dynamics is a means to better group management and curriculum development. Teachers should not undertake the use of these sociometric techniques unless they are prepared to check their findings by careful observations, and then utilize their increased knowledge as a means to provide better living and learning situations for children. If teachers set as a goal "improved classroom climate," then sociometric techniques are a means by which they can measure whether or not they have attained this goal.

The objectives of this document are to show how classroom teachers might sociometrically measure and diagnose the peer relations, friendships, and social status of individuals in their classrooms. A variety of sociometric techniques are presented along with some examples of how one might analyze the data once they have been obtained. In addition, some sample templates designed for duplication and reproduction are provided in the appendices so that persons who wish to use these measurements in their own classrooms may do so. Some example sociometric research is also provided in the appendices. An up-to-date bibliography of references is also provided for anyone interested in pursuing this research interest.

Lastly, I would like to acknowledge with great appreciation the help of the children, faculty and administration of the Edward Holmes McGuffey Laboratory School . Because of the necessary confidentiality and cooperation involved in longitudinal sociometric research, this facility was believed to be invaluable. The data collection techniques developed by me in this facility between 1979 and 1983 provided many insights into sociometric measurement. Up until June, 1983, this facility for research and pre-service teacher training was operated by the SOCIOGRAMS ARE
 



Last edited on 8/20/2002