I am working on a master’s degree in Sociology and have recently been delving into the world of social change and development. As one of my course papers, I was required to conduct a study (a very quick one) related to a topic involving social change.
I’m an educator, and I have a strong interest in the power of community, so I decided to do a study to begin to determine whether educator communities could conceivably be a catalyst for education reform, and thus, social change.
Big topic – no way I could possibly handle it in a study I’m supposed to complete over the course of two weeks. I decided to do a quick study that would, potentially, lay the groundwork for future, in-depth studies on the topic. I chose to create a survey which would be used to gather qualitative data from teachers on their perceptions about the influence formal educator communities have had on their teaching styles and skills.
Again, this by no means is a scientific study – it is just a gathering of data for the purposes of narrowing down a focus for future study. There is no quantifiable data to support the claims made by the educators who answered the study. There isn’t meant to be – it is meant to be a view of the perceived impact educator communities might have on teachers.
My study was conducted over just a few days, using a Google form tweeted and posted to FB, then subsequently retweeted and shared by others. During those few days, 124 educators responded to the survey. The average years of experience of the respondents was 17.
78% belong to an educator network. This was skewed because I asked for teachers who are in a network to do the survey when I tweeted and shared the link. 61% of the educators surveyed who said they were in a network belong to the Discovery Educator Network (DEN). Again, this was skewed because that is the network I am most active in, so a majority of educators who took my survey and who shared the link with others were also active in the DEN.
I wasn’t surprised that the response was overwhelmingly positive when asked about whether a community had positively impacted their teaching. When asked the reflective question, “Thinking back to your teaching practices before joining the community, then how they are now, would you say that the community has had a positive influence on changing your teaching practices?” 97% said “yes”.
Here are some of the other results. Note that this survey was about formal communities organized by businesses and organizations, not about PLCs at school or other district or campus communities. In order to obtain scientifically relevant data, one would need to identify quantifiable measurements and a way to include all kinds of communities.
Responses to questions about community influence. Click on the image to see full-size.
In addition to these questions, a comment box was provided for educators to add any information they wished. These comments were also very positive, such as:
- “I don’t think I would still be teaching if I hadn’t attended DENSI!”
- “Sometimes my job can be lonely – it helps SO much to be able to connect …. for support”
- “…now the ideas I use are not always my own … and because I share where the ideas come from – my students also see me as a learner.”
- “those who reach out, collaborate and intentionally connect with others are actively involved in growing their practice!”
- “I always thought I was a good teacher but when I became a connected educator I realized how much more I had to learn and how much more I could do for my students …. I could not imagine teaching without these connections.”
- “I like seeing what other educators do. It makes me step up my game.”
Thank you to everyone who answered the survey. The fact that I received so many responses in such a short time is evidence of the strength of the network to which I belong!