A social network analysis of interschool collaboration
: Staff relationships in a shared education partnership

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis reports on the social structures underpinning interschool collaboration in the context of Shared Education and the networks of staff relations that have been developed for the purpose of overcoming systemic separation. Drawing upon social network theory, it is argued that in order to further the model of Shared Education the corresponding research and academic enterprise must move beyond the analogous use of the term ‘network’ and consider the concept in a more analytical manner. In this sequential mixed methods case study, an exploratory network analysis of the staff members (n=97) from five collaborating primary schools in a Shared Education partnership was performed using a socio-metric instrument to examine four collaborative interactions—exchanging resources, seeking professional knowledge, discussing personal matters, and meeting socially. This was then followed by semi-structured interviews with the staff members (n=16) observed as most central within the partnership's network. The findings of this study suggest that Shared Education can facilitate network structures that overcome systemic separation; that partner preference is based upon desirable structural characteristics; that partnership sustainability may be an extension of social network adaptability; that Shared Education offered an alternative model for collegial engagement; that the model can facilitate learning relationships and knowledge creation; and that relational embeddedness is also observed to be a critical aspect of the partnership's leadership. Therefore, it is advocated that those researching Shared Education must develop a more nuanced approach to thinking about the structure of partnerships and the relationships that constitute them.
Date of AwardJul 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorTony Gallagher (Supervisor) & Helen McAneney (Supervisor)


  • Shared education
  • social network analysis
  • school collaboration
  • mixed methods
  • school networks
  • divided societies
  • teacher relationships

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