British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 43 No 5 2012 754-769
This research in the article aimed to answer 3 research questions.
Domain: how does the domain (and particularly the way it is approached) impact on group membership?
Network: does it make sense to distinguish between different types of participatory attitudes and behaviours, involving different levels of engagement in the group?
Practice: does engagement with a group of professionals sharing practices have an impact on ‘real life’ and professional development?
It did this by testing several hypotheses. I will not go into details but suffice to say the statistical analyses seem sound although there are some confounders which I will address later. The analysis was based on several sub-groups of the 1107 respondents dividing the groups into generic & themed. An analogous example of the themed group would be a group of doctors interested in ADHD, the generic group our own PBSGL. Divisions were also made on whether the group was open or by application and how long individuals had been members for.
Domain: There was a distinction here between themed and generic. For themed groups, FB provided emotional support and bonding social capital. Members were likely to have known one another before joining. For the generic group, FB provided a means for sharing information and ideas. It provided bridging social capital converting latent ties into weak ties.
Network: Senior members demonstrated more active and confident behaviours compared to junior members, as would be expected. However the impact on professional life was similar regardless of length of time of membership. This impact was greater in the generic group reinforcing previous evidence that the motivation behind SNS was sharing ideas & projects.
Practice: Thematic groups tended to use FB as a social support mechanism as there was already significant off-line co-operation and interaction. The members knew & worked with each other in real life with the SNS providing emotional support away from this. Interestingly the generic group was more likely to start projects in real life after on-line discussion and sharing. This is real evidence that SNS can have an impact in off-line activities.
Applying the READER critical reading model:
Relevance: Not primary care, not English. But it did look at a cohort of professionals looking to share information and develop educational ideas.
Education: The authors make a good argument, it is well referenced and uses terms familiar to most readers. The theoretical background is explored in some detail. There is a logic to it, funnelling the arguments down to the three research questions (relevant to NOPs) being asked. Therefore there was an educational impact.
Applicability: Highly applicable to the Salisbury Plain PBSGL, albeit with a lot smaller numbers. It is also very relevant to my assignment. The demographics could slightly bias it applicability though with more female members (87.2%).
Discrimination: The research was amongst Italian teachers. However it could quite easily apply to Primary care. The themes that emerged from the questionnaires are relevant: ‘Feeling less isolated’, ‘sharing ideas and projects’, ‘keep me updated on group topics’.
Evaluation: Interestingly, the Generic FB groups (sharing school experiences in general) generally had more positive outcomes than the Thematic FB groups (special interest eg ASD). The latter felt the group decreased isolation. The former felt it enabled sharing of ideas.
Reaction: Once I had worked through the article and digested what they were saying, my reaction was very positive. Here is some evidence that SNS could improve the outcomes in our PBSGL group. Further research is required however, or in my case, more reading. It is a start though…