Social networks and learning : a study of the socio-cultural context of the international student

Catherine Montgomery, Liz McDowell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This paper considers the impact of social context on the learning experience of a specific group of learners, international students in UK HE, and also examines the implications of the nature of social interaction for other groups of students who learn with international students. There has been long-standing concern about the nature of the international student experience and, in particular, how well they settle and adapt to societal and study conditions away from their home country (Barker et al, 1991). The social context is sometimes viewed as an adjunct or pre-requisite to successful study, but the increasing adoption of social theories of learning suggests that social interaction and its role in the experience and learning achievements of international students merits further investigation. Thus the main premise of this paper is that learning is affected by social context. Although we try to create social interaction and exchange within the classroom it is an artificial construct and we may not attribute enough significance to the social environment outside of the classroom. This paper presents the initial findings of a qualitative research project exploring the social networks of international students and considering the link between social interaction and educational and personal achievement. The research draws upon concepts from the fields of Social Network Analysis (Wasserman and Faust, 1994) and Social Capital (Baron et al, 2000), and looks at the relationship between social ties and educational achievement. The first section of the paper will provide a brief overview of the background issues. A brief description of the research project and its findings will then be presented and the emerging issues and their bearing on the learning context will be examined. Finally there will be a discussion of the implications of the issues raised for the teaching and learning context.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationImproving Student Learning : Theory, Research and Scholarship : Proceedings of the 2003 11th International Symposium
Place of PublicationOxford, UK
PublisherOxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development
Number of pages291
ISBN (Print)9781873576717
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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