Researchers track tweets to determine how social media plays into Common Core and educational debates

Common-TwitterA new study endeavors to uncover how social media can impact education politics and how people view those issues, especially as they relate to the Common Core State Standards.

University researchers Jonathan Supovitz (University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education), Alan J. Daly (University of California, San Diego), and Miguel del Fresno (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia in Madrid, Spain) tracked Twitter posts from September 2013 to March 2014, following the #commoncore hashtag to determine how public debate on social media can influence education policy.

Nearly 190,000 #commoncore tweets from almost 53,000 Twitter users were sent during the six month analysis.

Tweet topics included testing (7.1 percent of tracked #commoncore tweets), parents (4.6 percent), curriculum (3 percent), math (3.8 percent), and ELA (2.9 percent).

Next page: 4 Key takeaways from the study

Some of the major findings include:

The Common Core has paved the way for social media debate about broader educational issues, such as the direction of U.S. education, including opposition to a federal role in education, worries about access to student data, and discussion about testing measures.

Common Core supporters and opponents tracked in the study use different language to make their points and appeal to their audience. Researchers identified two strains of language in the #commoncore tweets: policy-speak, which evokes logical and rational arguments that tend to appeal to a policy audience, and political-speak, which employs more emotional and visceral semantics intended to rouse peoples’ passions. Researchers found that proponents of the Common Core used significantly more policy-speak while opponents of the standards more frequently adopted political-speak in their tweets.

Politics makes strange bedfellows. Debate about the Common Core has brought together an ideologically diverse mixture of individuals and groups on both sides of the issue, eager to share ideas, information and opinions in 140 characters or less. The social network analysis revealed three particular structural communities: one that generally supported the Common Core, one made up of educators who opposed the Common Core, and the third comprising actors from outside of education who opposed the Common Core primarily due to their connecting it to larger socio-political issues. Interestingly, the latter group made up the most active participants using #commoncore on Twitter.

Social media is a conduit for debates on the periphery to enter into the mainstream discussion. “There were examples of both genuine debates in the Twitter conversations we analyzed, as well as evidence of the echo chamber effect whereby people share views mostly with those similarly inclined as a way to spread messages and catalyze the base,” the researchers wrote. Researchers also found a strong media presence in the #commoncore network and evidence that the topics, messages, and personas of individual actors are transported from this very particular space into the mainstream via these media members.

For more findings and to read about the study’s methodology, click here.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

Laura Ascione
About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura