Students differ on sense of belonging

Students’ sense of belonging can be an important factor in how well they do in school. But students have different conceptions of what it means to belong, with some students emphasizing the importance of interpersonal relationships and others emphasizing academic achievement or opportunity, according to a recent study of 6th-8th-graders in The Journal of Experimental Education.

“Beliefs about belongingness are complex and multidimensional,” the researcher writes. “For some, belonging among friends compensated for the perceived deficits of the school, whereas for others, the school did not compensate for lack of friendships. Likewise, teachers’ caring and concern may compensate for lack of friends and vice versa.”

When students are starting a new school, it is important to understand students’ expectations for the new school. Parents also need to involve students in the decision to change schools. “Students who anticipate a positive change in setting are more likely to feel that they belong if the experience is what they expected,” the researcher writes. “In contrast, students who resist the change or who have a negative anticipatory goal for the change might be more likely to resist fitting in, especially if dire predictions are met.”

The Journal of Experimental Education, 2008, Volume 76, Number 2, pp. 145-169.

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