Adolescent Classroom Helping Networks, Individual Network Position, and their Effects on Academic Achievement

Louise van Rijsewijk, Beau Oldenburg, Thomas Snijders, René Veenstra, Jan Kornelis Dijkstra

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperAcademic


This study examined how classroom peer relations can be described in terms of the network of helping relations among students, and the positions students take up in this helping network. Subsequently, it was examined whether the structure of adolescent classroom helping networks and individual network positions were associated with academic achievement. Helping networks were based on the peer nomination question "Who helps you with problems (for example, with homework, with repairing a flat [bicycle] tire, or when you are feeling down)?". Building on previous studies on classroom climate and individual network position, we expected higher academic achievement in classrooms with a dense helping network; with no or few network isolates (i.e., students that did not give or receive help at all); with equitably distributed helping nominations; and in classrooms where helping relations were less segmented. Also, we expected higher achievement for individuals with more helpers and a more central position in the helping network. Using the Dutch SNARE dataset (54 classrooms; 1,144 students), the multilevel models suggested that achievement was lower only in classrooms where helping relations were unequally distributed. Moreover, individuals who were more centrally positioned in the helping network showed higher achievement. Interestingly, classrooms varied strongly on network dimensions, and networks that would theoretically be expected to be most beneficial for achievement (with high density, few isolates, high equality, and low segmentation) were highly uncommon in our sample. The results demonstrated that subtle network processes were relevant for academic success, and that classroom network characteristics are highly important for explaining classroom-level variation in academic achievement. Descriptive results underlined the complexity of the social context of classrooms, and the absence of 'beneficial' classrooms suggests that researchers should adjust their notion of what is a beneficial or detrimental social environment for adolescents.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 9-Jan-2018


  • help
  • academic achievement
  • classroom social climate

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