Being an educator has always required connecting with others and building relationships to give and receive support. After all, education is known to be a demanding profession, and a lack of support can be a major reason behind educators leaving the profession (Hobson et al., 2009). It is recognised that there is a positive relationship between well-being, health and social support (Rathmell, 2012; Batenburg and Das, 2014; Monnot and Beehr, 2014) however both social support and well-being are complex concepts with many definitions.
The internet has opened up many different ways that educators can connect and gain social support through their personal learning networks and associated social network sites. Social Network Sites (SNS) can be defined as ‘web-based services that allow individuals to:
(1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system,
(2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and
(3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.’ (Boyd and Ellison, 2007, p. 211).
SNS can provide a ‘welcoming and comfortable environment in which teachers can share their teaching-related experiences and concerns’ (Ab Rashid et al 2016, p35). Social support gained through online channels has been shown to contribute to well-being (Chiang, 2016) and there have been calls for further research to examine how peer collaboration can support educator well-being (Falk et al., 2019).
However, social networking sites can differ in terms of privacy and size, which can have an impact on the interaction amongst contributors and willingness to disclose and share information. Research shows that educators who make use of ‘private’ or ‘closed’ SNS groups to find support and share resources are more likely to facilitate discussion of practices and reflection. However, Kelly and Antonio argue that more ‘study on closed groups within SNS is required to determine if this is the case’ (2016, p. 146) Using SNS in this way can be distinguished in that ‘private’ or ‘closed’ refers to the sense that ‘ one must be approved in some way to be able to join it’ (Kelly, Mercieca and Mercieca, 2021, p. 26). So this could be for example, a private Facebook group, Twitter Direct Messaging group, or WhatsApp group all of which require approval or a specific invitation to join.
Furthermore, the COVID19 pandemic over the last two years has reignited the debate around the pressures that educators face in undertaking their roles (Reimers and Schleicher, 2020; Savill-Smith and Scanlan, 2020). Educators face increasing psychological and emotional pressure resulting in additional stress and anxiety and this, in turn, may impact well-being. It has been globally recognised that the well-being of both staff and students should be a key institutional priority both immediately and in the long term (Cairns et al., 2020). My PhD Research therefore explores how educators experience social support within social network sites, specifically when used in a private way and focuses on how this impacts on their well-being. I am particularly interested in the behaviours and practices that help foster a supportive environment for positive wellbeing.
Join Us 🕗
The live tweet-chat will take place via https://twitter.com/LTHEchat on Wednesday 9th February 2022, 8:00 to 9:00 pm GMT. During this time 6 questions will be posed (one every 10 minutes) – everyone is welcome to contribute (as much or as little as they like) or just to read. Conversation is also welcomed at any time post 9:00pm GMT.
Q1. As an educator, how would you define ‘social support’ and how important is this to you?
Q2. What education related social network sites do you engage in? How and why do you take part?
Q3. What benefits do you think could be gained from connecting with other educators within a private Social Network Site group?
Q4. If you connect with other educators in a closed or private Social Network Site group e.g. Twitter Direct Message, WhatsApp or Facebook group etc, why do you do this? If not, why not?
Q5. What behaviours and practices do you think can facilitate social support?
Q6. How do you think positive well-being can be fostered in an online setting?
Here’s the link to the Wakelet: https://wke.lt/w/s/jUpYXO
Ab Rashid, R., A. Rahman, M.F. and Abdul Rahman, S.B. (2016) ‘Teachers’ Engagement in Social Support Process on a Networking Site’, Journal of Nusantara Studies (JONUS), 1(1), p. 34. doi:10.24200/jonus.vol1iss1pp34-45.
Batenburg, A. and Das, E. (2014) ‘An Experimental Study on the Effectiveness of Disclosing Stressful Life Events and Support Messages: When Cognitive Reappraisal Support Decreases Emotional Distress, and Emotional Support Is Like Saying Nothing at All’, PLoS ONE. Edited by D. Houser, 9(12), p. e114169. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0114169.
boyd, danah m. and Ellison, N.B. (2007) ‘Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship’, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), pp. 210–230. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00393.x.
Cairns, M.R. et al. (2020) ‘COVID-19 and Human Connection: Collaborative Research on Loneliness and Online Worlds from a Socially-Distanced Academy’, Human Organization, 79(4), pp. 281–291. doi:10.17730/1938-3525-79.4.281.
Chiang, I.-P. (2016) ‘How to Create Social Support on Facebook’, International Journal of Electronic Commerce Studies, 7(1), pp. 1–20. doi:10.7903/ijecs.1243.
Falk, D. et al. (2019) ‘Landscape Review: Teacher Well-being in Low Resource, Crisis, and Conflict-affected Settings’.
Hobson, A.J. et al. (2009) ‘Becoming a Teacher Teachers’ Experiences of Initial Teacher Training, Induction and Early Professional Development Final Report’. doi:10.13140/RG.2.1.3376.3924.
Kelly, N. and Antonio, A. (2016) ‘Teacher peer support in social network sites’, Teaching and Teacher Education, 56, pp. 138–149. doi:10.1016/j.tate.2016.02.007.
Kelly, N., Mercieca, B. and Mercieca, P. (2021) ‘Studying Teachers in Social Network Sites: A Review of Methods. Review of Education. (In Press)’.
Monnot, M.J. and Beehr, T.A. (2014) ‘Subjective well-being at work: Disentangling source effects of stress and support on enthusiasm, contentment, and meaningfulness’, Journal of Vocational Behavior, 85(2), pp. 204–218. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2014.07.005.
Rathmell, J. (2012) A Heuristic Inquiry into the Stress That Home Educators Experience.
Reimers, F.M. and Schleicher, A. (2020) ‘A framework to guide an education response to the COVID19 Pandemic of 2020’.
Savill-Smith, C. and Scanlan, D. (2020) Teacher WellBeing Index 2020. Education Support. Available at: https://www.educationsupport.org.uk/sites/default/files/teacher_wellbeing_index_2020.pdf (Accessed: 8 May 2021).
Debbie Baff’s Bio 📷
Debbie Baff is a Subject Specialist in Digital Practice (Digital Leadership) at JISC., She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and Certified Online Learning Facilitator and has more than 25 years of experience in Higher Education working across the student and staff experience. She is a PhD Student in E Research and Technology Enhanced Learning at Lancaster University and a proud Open Education Practitioner and Go-Gn Global OER Graduate Network member. Debbie is on twitter @debbaff and has a blog at debbaff.com. She is also an enthusiastic supporter of Open Digital Badges , an amateur sketchnoter and bitmoji fan and loves anything pink and sparkly 😊