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Exploring peer relationships, friendships and group work dynamics in higher education: applying social network analysis

Abstract

This study primarily applied social network analysis (SNA) to explore the relationship between friendships, peer social interactions and group work dynamics within a higher education undergraduate programme in England. A critical case study design was adopted so as to allow for an in-depth exploration of the students’ voice. In doing so, the views and perspectives of students were sought through a questionnaire. The study is informed by a social capital theory perspective along with the idea of student relational agency within a social network perspective. Data were analysed by using a combination of methods, including SNA, descriptive statistics and thematic analysis. The initial findings suggest that students are, on the whole, positive about group work but, at the same time, acknowledge many potential barriers when working in groups. More importantly, a dynamic interrelationship between friendships/peer relationships and group work dynamics was found.

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