Make friends with intelligent students to do well in school

  • PTI, Moscow
  • Updated: Dec 10, 2015 20:15 IST
Experts say that most students who surrounded themselves with high-achievers are able to improve their performance over time. (Shutterstock)

Here’s one more reason why you should always keep a tab on your child’s peers. According to a new study, students tend to perform better with high-performers among their friends as some people are capable of inspiring others to try harder.

Most sociologists recognise four factors affecting student academic performance. These include the family’s socioeconomic status; the time spent on independent learning and preparation for classes; time spent working on a job or practising a hobby; and the university or school environment.

Recent empirical studies show that the role of the social environment may be underestimated, as classmates can greatly influence one another’s behaviour and academic success. Yet the value of many such studies is limited due to serious design flaws -- such as viewing a random group of classmates as one’s social network or assuming that a student’s position in his or her social network is static.

Rather than being random, one’s social network is a product of conscious and dynamic choice, according to researchers at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow. Social networks, particularly among college freshmen, can change considerably over time -- for example, a student can break up with an underachieving friend and seek the company of A-graders.

Using 2013-2014 data on the social networks of 117 first-year students of the Faculty of Economics at a Russian university, Maria Yudkevich, Director of the Centre for Institutional Studies, and colleagues examined whether students consider academic success in choosing friends among their classmates and whether friends influence each other’s academic performance.

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According to the researchers, students do not usually consider academic performance in choosing friends, but over time -- often in the middle of the academic year -- all members in a peer group tend to perform at about the same level. Thus, most students who surrounded themselves with high-achievers improved their performance over time.

The opposite was also true -- those who befriended underachievers eventually experienced a drop in grades. According to the researchers, while underachievers have a stronger influence on their networks, high performers tend to gain popularity and expand their influence over time, particularly by helping other students with their studies.

Men were found to have larger networks than women, and all students were more likely to be friends with those whom they had known before college, classmates of the same gender, and members of their study group.

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