Circles of support: New urban teachers' social support networks

Kira J Baker-Doyle, University of Pennsylvania


This study is an investigation of the characteristics of new urban teachers' social support networks and the relationship between these networks and the forms of professional support they received throughout their first year. The primary research question was: What types of social networks do beginning urban teachers have access to and rely upon while leaching, and what is the interplay between these social supports and their teaching experience? Recent research on teacher induction has found that engagement in teacher networks and "communities of practice" is an important component in retaining and supporting new teachers. Further, informal networks have been recognized as increasingly important to study because of the rise of new communication technologies and the emergence of the "knowledge economy." A mixed-method approach was used for the study; analysis of the socio-metric surveys of 24 first year teachers provided a baseline and framework for analyzing the social networks and case study narratives of four first year teachers. Findings of the analysis identified two important networks of support for the new teachers: "Intentional Professional Networks," and "Diverse Professional Allies." The Intentional Professional Networks were personal networks of the individuals that teachers selected to collaborate and interact with to solve professional problems. Intentional Professional Networks were characterized by their localization (most often, in the school), informal professional relationships, active-problem solving, and strong ties between the teachers and contacts. These contacts provided important professional support, helped teachers to navigate the norms of their schools, establish their professional status and identity, solve everyday problems, and feel more confident about their work. "Diverse Professional Allies" were non-traditional support providers that were not typically considered "professionals," such as parents, volunteers, or students. The Diverse Professional Allies were invested in the professional growth of the teachers and helped teachers to challenge the traditional norms of the school or teaching and become more personally engaged with development of the curriculum. These findings have important implications for the ways in which administrators, policy-makers, teacher-educators, and teachers can conceptualize and nurture teacher support networks and the interactions and relationships that influence teacher professional support.

Subject Area

Educational sociology|Teacher education|Individual & family studies

Recommended Citation

Baker-Doyle, Kira J, "Circles of support: New urban teachers' social support networks" (2008). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3309395.