Access to opportunity depends on more than just education--social connections play a role, meaning students' social capital can't be overlooked

Are you measuring students’ social capital? You should be


Access to opportunity depends on more than just education--social connections play a role, meaning students' social capital can't be overlooked

“Most schools and programs wholeheartedly agree that relationships matter. But far fewer actually measure students’ social capital,” according to the report. “Oftentimes, relationships, valuable as they may be, are treated as inputs to learning and development rather than outcomes in their own right. In turn, schools routinely leave students’ access to relationships and networks to chance.”

In particular, measuring students’ social capital and relationships in four specific areas is important:
1. Quantity of relationships measures who is in a student’s network over time. The more relationships students have at their disposal, the better their chances of finding the support they need and the opportunities they deserve.

2. Quality of relationships measures how students experience the relationships they are in and the extent to which those relationships are meeting their relational, developmental, and instrumental needs. Different relationships offer different value as students’ needs evolve.

3. Structure of networks gauges the variety of people a student knows and how those people are themselves connected. Different people with varied backgrounds, expertise, and insights can provide students with a wide range of options for discovering opportunities, exploring interests, and accessing career options.

4. Ability to mobilize relationships assesses a student’s ability to seek out help when needed and to activate different relationships. Connecting a student to relationships isn’t enough. Young people must be able to nurture relationships and recognize how and when to leverage relationships as resources in their life journey.

Laura Ascione

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