More On Sociometrics
Sociologists Bogardus (1928) and Moreno (1934), because of their interests in inter-group conflict and interpersonal attraction, developed quantifiable measuring techniques which were later to be called "sociometrics." Bogardus and Moreno were primarily interested in how recent immigrants to the United States adapted to their new environment and became accepted by other non-immigrant citizens.
Many of these research techniques were quickly adapted to public school classroom usage by the end of the 1950s. Throughout the 1970's and continuing to present, many research activities continue to focus on well being and health of classroom groups and the individuals who occupy these groups, chiefly because of racial integration of the 1960s and handicapped student integration, or inclusion, that continues to this day.
Past research indicates that healthy classroom climates also appear to not only be related but to enhance overall classroom academic achievement. Research also indicates that children's social status, developmentally across time, remains quite stable, especially children who are not accepted by their peers. This social rejection has been shown to be a strong predictor of classroom absences, later school drop-outs, and a variety of other socio-emotional problems.
Two relatively recent meta-analyses bring together a rather large body of research that summarize past findings. These children are described as being "socially at risk." The examination of basic social skills or competencies, which appear to be strongly related to peer social attraction, have lead to some vary promising intervention approaches.
As in the case of early identification of developmentally handicapped children, early identification of children likely to be experiencing social rejection and peer neglect will most likely lead to more desirable outcomes for these children.
While teachers may know that the groups of children they work with form patterns of sub-groups, cliques, and specific friendships, more subtle inter-personal relationships may be difficult to detect. Classroom sociometric techniques are designed to shed light on these subtleties. Sociograms derived from "positive" and "negative" nomination techniques and social distance ratings are two means by which school professionals may gain some insight into these relationships.
How Sociometrics Can Help Structure a Classroom for Academic Success: A Sample Intervention
Placing children with mutual nominations into a work group will facilitate their willingness to work with one another. It can also make rejected and neglected children feel more welcome. Before distributing a survey for this purpose, tell the students that you want to accommodate their choices as much as possible. After collecting the nomination choices and printing a sociogram and bar graph, see who is popular, rejected, and neglected. The following are step-by-step directions for arranging sociometric groups.
Decide how many groups you will have in your classroom.
On a sheet of paper, draw as many large squares as you have groups.
Take all of your rejected and neglected children and try to spread them out by writing in as few as possible in each square.
Take all of your popular children, and write in as few as possible in each square. Do this while trying to respect the choices of the rejected and neglected children. If you used a negative question, try to respect these nominations as well.
Next, place the rest of the children in each group, trying to optimize the number of mutual choices per group.
While doing this, take academic skill level into consideration so that each group has the same proportion of high, average, and low achievers. After placing children in sociometric groups, direct each group to help one another during your first classroom assignment with such things as getting one another started, spelling, reading a specific word, or explaining a concept. One could also make it a classroom rule that students must ask their group members for help before calling for the teacher. It is generally more effective to direct children to help one another, rather than to tell them directly what to do.
For Additional resources on interventions, please check the links to the right.
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Journal Articles & Other Resources
An Online Bibliography of Sociometric Resources: an excellent resources of dozens and dozens of books, scholarly articles, and research papers on sociometrics.
Sociometry.net: Sociometry as used in other ways.
Sociometrics Wiki: Excellent resource about using sociometrics in the classroom.
Jigsaw Classroom: Cooperative learning technique that reduces racial conflict among school children, promotes better learning, improves student motivation, and increases enjoyment of the learning experience.
Intervention Central: A plethora of classroom intervention resources.