Students' networks carry them beyond school and into the workforce--here's how to help them create strong connections

5 steps to build and strengthen students’ networks


Students' networks carry them beyond school and into the workforce--here's how to help them create strong connections

Building and strengthening students’ networks helps to support student well-being and expand their sense of future possible selves, according to researchers at the Clayton Christensen Institute who have released a new playbook with strategies to create strong student relationships.

The playbook offers five steps for building and strengthening students’ networks, and its recommendations and activities are guided by decades of research on the power of relationships; new, innovative designs; and emerging measures from the field. Using the five steps as a roadmap, education leaders can take a systematic approach to equitably fostering positive and diverse relationships across their schools and programs.

Building and supporting students’ networks helps students well beyond their school years. In fact, establishing these connections ensures that every student has access to a web of supportive relationships to help them get by, and helps them create an array of diverse connections to help them get ahead–more important than ever in today’s increasingly global society.

The free, customizable playbook highlights how K–12 schools, postsecondary institutions, and out-of-school providers can take the notion that “relationships matter” to the next level.

Within the playbook, educators will find evidence-based insights on the benefits of students’ relationships; strategies used in the field to build and measure students’ networks; examples of real-world programs building students’ connections; and guiding questions and activities to translate research to practice.

The five steps, outlined in detail in the playbook, include:
1. Take stock of who your students know
2. Shore up support networks
3. Expand networks to expand opportunities
4. Leverage edtech that connects
5. Build networks that last

“Investing in networks is an equity imperative. When it comes to thriving, opportunity sits at the cross-section of what students know and who students know,” said Julia Freeland Fisher, the director of education research at the Christensen Institute. “After a year marred by social distance and disconnection, strategically investing in students’ access to and ability to mobilize relationships will be critical to both meeting students’ immediate needs and addressing long-standing opportunity gaps.”

The playbook was produced with support from American Student Assistance (ASA), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Genentech, and Walton Family Foundation.

“Being able to build meaningful connections and relationships at an early age is critical knowing that up to 50 percent or more of jobs today are achieved through someone’s social capital or network,” said Jean Eddy, ASA president and CEO. “The resources created by the Christensen Institute will help educators and all of us better understand how to help students navigate the education to employment ecosystem to find the paths that meet their interests and achieve their goals.”

Laura Ascione

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