There are two articles which will be discussed in this post: Defending one’s friends, not one’s enemies: A social network analysis of children’s defending, friendship, and dislike relationships by Oldenburg et. al & A social network analysis on elementary student engagement in the networked creation community by Liu et. al.

Oldenburg et. al’s research was focused on bullying, in specific relational variables that lead to defensive peer behavior in response to the observation of bullying.  These researchers argue that the action of defending creates a directed dyadic relationship in which there are at least two actors, the victim and the defender. The basis for this paper is that students’ behavior can be flexible, implying that rather than always acting as a defender (or victim for that matter) they may interact differently with classmates depending on the dynamics of their relationship with them. In this study, three different friendship variations were observed:

  1. Friendships in which the victim nominated the defender as a friend, but the defender did not reciprocate.
  2. Friendships in which the defender nominated the victim as a friend, but the victim did not reciprocate.

3.Mutually reciprocated friendships.

Through the use of these observations Oldenburg et. al investigated to what extent defending relationships related to the level of reciprocity in friendship networks.

Research Question:

RQ1:To what extent defending relationships co-occurred with two common types of positive and negative relationships among elementary school students: friendship and dislike?


In their study Oldenburg et. al posed five hypotheses:

H1: Defending is likely to occur between friends.

H2: Defending is likely to occur between friends of friends.

H3: Defending is unlikely to occur within dyadic dislike relationships.

H4: Defending is likely to occur between students who were disliked by the same classmates.

H5: Defending is likely to occur between students who disliked the same classmates.


These researchers drew data from a larger project which evaluated the effectiveness of a Dutch anti-bullying program. The data set consisted of 462 elementary school classrooms, from this Oldenburg et. al extracted a sample of 7 grade 3 classrooms which had a median number of 23 students. Participants took a web-based survey which ask questions such as who the student did or did not like, their experiences with bullying, and who if anyone defended them. The nodes in this study were the participants and those they identified as either liking or dis-liking, these measures were used as basis for edges in the network. As previously stated, ties in this study were directional, depending on the reciprocity of the nominations (i.e. if one participant noted being friends with another but this was not a shared opinion).


Using there collected data Oldenburg et. al created three networks; defending, friendship, and dislike. Table1 displays the density and the reciprocity of the defending, friendship, and dislike networks. Overall, the density and reciprocity were highest in the friendship networks, and lowest in the defending networks.

In line with the researcher’s hypotheses, the results indicated that victimized students were likely to be defended by students who they perceive as friends or who perceive them as friends. Furthermore, defending was likely to occur when the victim and defender had the same friends. Victimized students were unlikely to be defended by classmates which they reported disliking or who had indicated that they disliked them. Finally, defending was likely to occur between students who disliked the same classmates.


Social research has shown that defending is important, it can serve as a deterrent for negative behaviors and can also act as a protective factor against the negative consequences of bullying. This study by Oldenburg et. al used SNA to contribute to prior studies on defending behavior by investigating to what extent defending relationships co-occurred with common types of relationships among elementary school students.

In their paper social researchers Liu et. al discussed how the development and innovation of information and communication tools have created a new opportunity to implement networked learning in schools. Through this practice students can learn using challenging collaborative platforms that can foster growth. With the aid of these tools (i.e. blogs and social networks) students act as active participants to produce content and learning becomes a participatory social process to achieve both personal and life goals. Liu et. al and used SNA to investigate how elementary students teamed and collaborated with peers to create multimedia stories and then analyzed their levels of engagement. Throughout the course of the study students were both assigned partners and also given opportunity to select whom they work with.

Research Question:

Liu et. al posed 3 research questions in their study:

RQ1:Do the dynamic teaming activities impact the students’ flow and motivation in the networked creation activity?

RQ2:How do the students team and collaborate with peers to participate in the networked creation activity?

RQ3:Do the students’ properties in the social network have an impact on their flow and motivation in the networked creation activity?


H1:Teaming dynamics will have an effect on motivation and learning outcomes.


This study is part of a year-long program aiming at helping students develop their proficiency in English, computer use, and collaboration through collaborative digital storytelling. The researchers gathered data from 26 third grade students in an elementary school in Taiwan. These students participated in a 20-week digital storytelling activity on a social network platform collaboratively with peers. The students went through a total of 13 sections over the course of this 20 week period.  In this study the nodes were the participating students and the edges were based on collaboration. Liu et. al used a flow perception survey to examine the students engagement with the activity. In addition, the researchers used the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ), both of these measures were used to assess the effectiveness of the collaborating parties.


Results indicated that the students’ perceived a significantly higher level of motivation in the dynamic teaming activity than they did in the fixed-relation activity. Also, participants showed an enhanced perceptual engagement when they were able to dynamically select their own collaborating peers in the networked creation activity.


This study explored how elementary students team and collaborate with their peers using networked activities. SNA was used to depict student social network which was analyzed in relation to students’ engagement, motivations, and overall perception of the activity. The results of this study contributed to a sound understanding of students’ engagement in networked creation community and suggests that the free pairing strategy among students had a positive impact on their engagement. The world is becoming increasingly connected, with impacts across all social institutions, especially schools. This leads to an importance in understanding how students engage in networked learning activities. There is no better tool than SNA to shed light on this topic.


Liu, C.-C., Chen, Y.-C., & Diana Tai, S.-J. (2017). A social network analysis on elementary student engagement in the networked creation community. Computers & Education, 115, 114–125.

Oldenburg, B., Van Duijn, M., & Veenstra, R. (2018). Defending one’s friends, not one’s enemies: A social network analysis of children’s defending, friendship, and dislike relationships using XPNet. PLoS ONE, 13(5), 1–14.