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The Social Organization of Schools and the Emotional Well-Being of Schoolchildren

Priority areas of development: sociology
Department: Research Laboratory of Sociology in Education and Science
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

Research Object: The relationship between the social organization of schools and the emotional well-being of schoolchildren and their long-term educational outcomes (academic achievements, college plans, and future professional and career plans).

1.   Research Purpose:

The project focuses on the emotional well-being of adolescents in the social context of school. School is an important context for the social-emotional development of children and teenagers; and socio-emotional development, together with cognitive skills, forms the basis for success and achievement later in life.

2.   Empirical Base of the Research:

· Data collected by the Laboratory in a 2012 survey of 50 schools in the Moscow region (3,500 schoolchildren, 850 teachers);

· The first two waves of a longitudinal survey of vocational colleges in St. Petersburg (4 vocational colleges, 945 students).

· A new research instrument we developed to analyze the determinants of parental school choice, and improved survey questionnaires for vocational school students.

3.   Research Results:

School Inequality and Segregation: Our study of a small city's local education system demonstrated that a new policy on distributing students among schools in an attempt to diminish inter-school segregation leads to increasing differentiation (tracking) within a school. Tracking may be based on a student’s abilities and/or their family's socio-economic status (their parents’ educations and job positions).

The local system of organizations offering extra-curricular activities also reflects and reproduces social inequality: families with different socio-economic resources tend to choose different organizations and different types of extra-curricular activities for their children.

Academic Resilience: Ethnic minority students are less likely to achieve good academic grades primarily due to their families' insufficient economic and cultural capital. However, we found a number of protective factors that counteract the negative influence of their disadvantaged status, the main one being learning motivation. Other factors include having friends who excel academically, being highly engaged in school, and having a strong sense of belonging to school.

Friendship Formation: Our studies of vocational schools revealed that practices involving shared risk are important in facilitating the emergence of new friendships. Smoking was an important factor for both boys and girls, while drinking was a factor for boys, but not for girls. We also found that considerable homophily exists with regard to depression and social anxiety, but not to aggression. For friends in vocational schools, having the same attitudes about a future profession is more important than having the same views about school and learning.

Advances in Methodology: Methods of geo information systems (GIS) were adapted and applied for mapping schools in St.Petersburg; original computer programs (crawlers, scrapers, parsers, etc) were developed to collect and analyse data from the social network VKontakte.

4.   Implementation of the Research Results:

All the schools and vocational colleges that participated in our surveys received detailed reports describing their profiles and positions in the overall rankings for all the educational institutions, along with comments on their efficiency and improvement.

In our work, we describe the practical consequences of the recent changes in educational policy, namely changes made to the rules pertaining to school admission and school catchment areas. The research results may be of interest to those engaged in educational policy and social policy.

The results were presented at a number of international conferences: INSNA XXXIII (Hamburg, Germany), the European Sociological Association (Turin, Italy), and EERA ECER (Istanbul, Turkey).

5.   International Partners:

· Christian Steiglich, Associate Professor, Faculty of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Groningen University

· Victor Lushin, Researcher, School of Social Work, New York University

· Mark Tranmer, Senior Lecturer in Social Statistics, The University of Manchester, Great Britain 


Ivaniushina V. A., Alexandrov D. A. Disentangling Peer Influence On Multiple Levels / NRU Higher School of Economics. Series SOC "Sociology". 2014. No. 43.
Valeria A.Ivaniushina, Zapletina O. O. Participation in Extracurricular Activities and Development of Personal and Interpersonal Skills in Adolescents // Journal of Siberian Federal University. Series: Humanities & Social Sciences. 2015. Vol. 8. No. 11. P. 2408-2420.