Social Network and Social Capital of Special
Education and It’s Effects on their Implementation of Teaching Strategies
Education is a matter of right across all human beings living, regardless of status, conditions and color; more so for those some people with special needs. Thus, education must be inclusive. However, in as much as teachers in the performance of their noblest profession to educate and foster learning and development to the special group of learners, the challenges are insurmountably tough.
It is a fact that given several factors, there has been a constant increase in the number of students needing special treatment. It may be by genes or social factors or a combination of both.
Despite this however, this condition requires a systemic and scientific approach to deal which may necessitate the conglomeration of several factors including social network and social capital alongside each individual alongside their family and the community as a whole. This is deemed important in order to make them well integrated into the society and become productive members thereof. In this process, the education system plays vital role. However, it is submitted that the dirty works is not only confined to the teaching professionals but to other members of the network as well.
This paper will particularly walk through the relevance of social network and social capital of learners needing special education. With the continuous evolution of societal practices and focus, it is imperative to determine and identify the importance of these concepts. To serve the needs of this under-privileged learners would be crucial on how teachers and academicians could better improve their professions for them in particular.
Social network has been defined by scholars as a framework composed of group of actors to which some of them would be connected in one way or another by one or more relations by virtue of which individuals belonging to such would gain more access to diversified resources ( Mishra, 2019). Social capital as a concept may have undergone a series of evolution through time. It is commonly defined as “networks together with shared norms, values and understanding that facilitate cooperation within or among groups” (OECD). This concept gained more popular attention in the book of Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community wherein he contended that while American people became wealthier, their sense of community dwindled (OECD).
With the emergence of the social network and social capital in the present day scenario, it is submitted that these two have significant contribution to education, more particularly to special education. This could have a significant impact on the implementation of teaching strategies which is vital.
Because of some specific attributes of networks like socio-economic status, level of education, influence of power of some of its component members affects the emergence of weak ties and the quality of the social capital made which would result to inequality in the distribution of resources which would be detrimental to the others (Mishra, 2019).
A study found that social networks, social support and social capital play vital role to affect higher education. It stated that support stood in the forefront of the success of minority students in their pursuit of higher education. Regrettably, discrimination and segregation of underrepresented students restricts their access to available support from members outside the sphere of their own communities. It has found that student drop-outs undertaking higher
education is caused by family obligations, absence of family, classmates and professors’ support. Thus, it stated that counselling services, peer tutoring programs, faculty mentorship, counselling services at the universities are necessary to improve relational issues with friends, mentors, and professors. Further, it found out that discussion surrounding discrimination and segregation be brought at the limelight. To state verbatimly: “Only by bridging this divide, the success of these minority groups can be ensured as these students will no longer have to rely only on their families and communities for support. At the same time, this will give minority students an opportunity to expand their networks, ties and social capital. Widening higher education access necessitates recognizing the needs of new student groups and addressing them in order to support these student groups in higher education” (Mishra, 2019).
However, given the value of social network in education, it is not a perfect set-up. Authorities enumerated five limitations in the access of education in the digital age. These were internet access, language, control over architects and standards, scalability and control over intellectual property (Greenhow, et.al, 2016). Social network also paved the way for a tremendous increase of informal education which was already been a common practice since time immemorial. Only that, digital platform facilitated its significant increase of usage and was rationalized by Greenhow, et al. in their book entitled: “Education and Social Media: Toward a Digital Future”, into four aspects, namely: lower cost, it increased the number of daily encounters and acts of sharing information, it increased the number of people individuals can encounter and learn from, and lastly, it tends to mesh education with entertainment and community participation (2016).
Social Capital in Special Education.
The most recent statistics of the US youth with emotional-behavior disability (EBD) presented quite an alarming figures that would possibly call out attention among policy-makers, academicians and other stakeholders to address this pressing issues that would gravely impact the community if remained undisturbed. It showed that only 40 percent of the students with EBD finishes high school as compared to the national rate of 76 percent; they are three times more likely to be arrested before they left school; they are twice as likely with other students with other impairments to live in a correctional facility, halfway house, drug treatment center or on the street after leaving school; they are twice more likely to become teenage mothers; that there is up to 85 percent of children in juvenile facilities have disabilities that make them qualified for special education services, yet only 37 percent had been receiving any kind of services in their school; youth with emotional disturbances are 13 times more likely to be arrested while still in school as compared to those with other types of disabilities; and lastly, 10 to 25 percent of students with EBD enroll in post-secondary school compared to only 53 percent of a typical population (Who Cares About Kelsey, 2020).
Kane Faucher in his book entitled: Social Capital Online: Alienation and Accumulation summed up in his book the main points of social capital namely: “Pierre Bourdieu’s understanding of social capital is closely aligned with cultural capital, and it’s function is as an instrument of exclusion given its connection to economics, and an agent of social reproduction through education and broader cultural forces; online social capital seems to tend toward quantizing our social relations while social media sites continue to extract surplus value from these exchanges”and lastly, he said: “although some traditional theories of social capital focus on non-economic forms like trust and reciprocity, online social capital makes them subordinate to economic relations” among others (2018). With the foregoing, it is imperative to determine the influence and relation of social capital in education system with more particularity on students with special needs.
Yeager, in his study entitled “Social Capital Consideration in Transition for Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities” concluded that to enable EBD students to transition from school to work, social capital is essential to aid them on their personal growth. He stated that to address the needs of EBD students using the social capital techniques, teachers play crucial role in this aspect. Teachers and school provide the first hand environment to facilitate a successful transition of these group of students for them to become more productive members of the society. (2018)
In the Wiley handbook entitled “Family, School and Community Relationships in Education”, it stated that to determine the appropriate analysis of each individual students with both Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it is crucial to examine the network of relationships and resources ingrained in the subset of people who make up the child’s “zone of proximal development”. (2019) It added that majority of special education studies yielded that while parent’s engagement on their child’s growth in school focuses more on barriers and facilitators to parent’s advocacy, both formally and informally. Only few numbers of researches dealt with the systematic approach of measuring the over-all system of knowledge and resources that are within the social networks of those people who provide interventions for the child at home and at school. (Sheldon, 2019).
The study conducted by Turley, et al entitled, “Reducing children’s behavior problems through social capital: A causal assessment” has modified the definition of social capital not as resources but instead as relationships to which quantity and quality must be considered, and a property not of individual members but of groups that may consist young children for whom social capital primarily functions through their parents (2017). Further, this study enunciated a probable effect on policy-making in such a way that in enhancing the quantity and quality of social relationships among parents at schools is important in the development of children’s behavior.
“When parents know the parents of their children’s friends, interact in trusting ways with other parents, and share expectations for their children, their children get along better with peers. Behavioral improvements, in turn, are linked to performance improvements that have lasting effects on a child’s life trajectory. Based on these findings, schools would do well to invest in programs, such as Families and School Together (FAST), that improve social relationships among parents and between parents and school personnel. Moreover, parents may be advised to participate in these programs, and when there are significant obstacles to their participation, schools should invest in assisting and pursuing the participation of the most disadvantaged families” (Turley, 2017). Thus, it is very welcoming that favorable children outcomes is a conglomeration of joint efforts within the child’s inner sphere as supported by the conclusion in the Wiley Education handbook.
With the foregoing discussion, it is given that the successful integration of students with special needs is a product of synchronized acts of several persons in the social network of a particular member of the under-privileged ones. The challenge may be insurmountable, but if each of the actors in this social networks would play each roles in harmonious ways, the result is overwhelming.
Effect on the Implementation of Teaching Strategies.
Earlier, we have identified that positive outcomes for students with special needs is a result of harmonious interactional relationships within his social network and social capital. Now, comes next is the deeper understanding on the effects of the social networks and social capital in the implementation of teaching strategies. Authorities have time and time again reiterated that social capital have beneficial impacts on education. It was found that it generated positive outcomes on (1) higher achievement on tests, (2) increased rates of graduates; (3) decreased drop-out rates; (4) increased college enrolment, and (5) improved involvement in school and community organizations (Acar, 2011).
It is submitted that to ensure successful integration of this group of students, teachers must be assured of their continuous professional development. To facilitate this, experts say that teachers need to change by a series of network rewiring teaching learning processes (Yoon, 2018). This may come into two parts, first, determine how to support teacher’s use of computer-supported complex system curriculum that would require application in the classroom setting and second, establish teacher’s social capital that professional developers must set-up giving due considerations as that teachers are both knower and instigator of change (Yoon, 2018).
Building trust and reciprocity among young students are deemed to have the potential of improving with the facilitation of teachers in the classroom which my be crucial in building social networking at an early stage the young people’s lives ( Arriaza, 2016). Intentional acts of
trust and reciprocity would give rise to community building (Arriaza, 2016). A study revealed that peer-to-peer communication, support and networking appear to have originated within the watch of a teacher in the classroom set-up but could not “translate into public, spontaneous and fluid social networking” (Arriaza, 2016).
With these constant innovation, teaching methodologies have tremendously changed. Gone were the days that course content was the main consideration in teaching. Now, the measure would be on the learning outcomes of self-learning activities. Thus, teachers are now more concentrated on facilitating student engagement with due consideration on these principles of student-faculty contact, prompt feedback, active learning, diversity, high expectation, time on task and student cooperation through the use of technology (Koranteng, et al. 2018).
With the advent of social networking sites where student’s engagement through knowledge sharing is expected to be high, a study revealed that the same is not automatic. The use of social networking sites may help inter connectivity among the class, but it did not translate on how it would facilitate knowledge sharing within the academic context (Koranteng, et al, 2018) In online social networks, communication is the antecedent of trust. It is a result of incessant exchanges and assessment of the opposite parties’ past behavior. (Koranteng, et al, 2018) These findings may be used to identify relevant application to students with special needs.
This study revealed that there was no significant effect in the use of social networking sites in terms of knowledge sharing among the students as the platform used was more of generic ones and not solely for academic purposes. Thus, the same may be undertaken to students with special needs through the use of appropriate platform with the same intention of building social network and capital towards better learning outcomes in the long term.
It is beyond debate that persons with special needs are not to be treated as liability but their conditions must be addressed with scientific and systematic approach not only be the parents or the family but by the totality of the social network to convert and maximize their potential towards their integration in the community. To do otherwise, would result in a much larger negative outcomes that would add up to the burden of the society in the long run. Necessarily, it would create a domino effect across several areas. In so doing, education would play a vital role towards this initiative.
Several studies showed that social network and social capital could be first developed in the classroom set-up with teachers as the forerunners. However, as the education landscape changes, several initiatives and reforms are found to be essential to address the pressing conditions of time. It is given that technological advancement may also play vital role in providing better learning experiences among students with special needs with special consideration on the application of basic principles on education.
But, it was observed that much research and studies are needed with more particular application to these type of persons. Future studies may be called upon to be undertaken to focus on the effects of social network and social capital on the teaching methodologies for students with special needs.
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