Indexing Professional Culture: A Social Network Analysis of Three Pre-kindergarten Centers
Mowrey, Sascha Cybele
As efforts are made in pre-kindergarten settings to design and model high quality programs, there is a growing need to attend to the aspects of the local context that may influence the ways that teachers and staff make sense of visions for their practice. Yet, the professional cultures in which teachers and other educators make sense of their practice are multifaceted and not well understood, particularly in early childhood settings. This exploratory case study examines collaboration and mentorship network structures, the alignment between formal structures and informal networks, and the beliefs among leaders, teachers, and assistants in three pre-kindergarten schools that comprised an initiative to build a model pre-kindergarten program. Social network surveys and self-reported beliefs from 75 educators were used to develop a composite picture of professional culture at each school, complemented by interviews participants. Results indicate distinct cultures at each of the three schools and sparse ties across the three schools. More specifically, variations in the network cohesion and teacher assistant positioning, in the alignment between formal and informal networks, and in autonomy and teacher-assistant trust at the schools were combined into different types of professional culture. Interview statements and examples provide evidence for each type of professional culture. Implications for policymakers and practitioners hoping to develop strong positive professional cultures are included. Future research is needed that uses both quantitative and qualitative methods to generate more comprehensive pictures of professional culture in a variety of schools.