When students have “positive and diverse” relationships, they are less likely to be at risk, more likely to boost their academic performance and persistence, and are also more likely to have access to a wider range professional opportunities, according to new research from the Clayton Christensen Institute.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, students without positive connections and relationships suffer when it comes to their well-being, academic success, and career potential. Schools often rely on existing faculty and staff to help grow students’ networks. And while mentoring and advising, volunteering, and new initiatives can positively impact students, these efforts are often institution-centric instead of student-centric–and they can burden staff who are already exhausted, along with placing added stress on tight budgets.
But according to Students’ Hidden Networks: Relationship Mapping as a Strategy to Build Asset-Based Pathways, taking an asset-based approach–leveraging the connections arising from people students already know–can help. A number of future-thinking groups are focused on equitably building students’ social capital and connections, and as they continue their work, helpful strategies and best practices have emerged for teachers and school leaders. The report is authored by Julia Freeland Fisher, director of education research at the Clayton Christensen Institute.
Schools can better understand the relationships students have outside of school–their unbounded networks–through a strategy called relationship mapping, which helps students and schools “visualize, reflect on, and keep track of the people they know.”
The report offers an in-depth look at how to help students begin relationship mapping, noting that “creating a relationship map offers a simple and powerful strategy to make
the invisible visible to students and institutions alike. The domains—by form, function, or both—against which students map and sort members of their networks should align with programs’ philosophies and students’ goals.”