School & District Management From Our Research Center

Students’ Sense of Belonging at School Is Important. It Starts With Teachers

By Evie Blad — June 20, 2017 2 min read

A student’s sense of belonging at school is important to academic achievement, say educators who responded to an Education Week Research Center survey.

While most educators who took the survey use routines to help students feel welcome and safe at school—like greeting them at the classroom door each morning—many respondents say they struggle to help address some barriers to belonging.

The survey, administered by the Education Week Research Center, drew input from 528 educators who are registered users of edweek.org.

Among those respondents, 41 percent say it’s challenging or very challenging for them to address “the concerns of students who feel that they might be judged negatively based on their identity (e.g., disability status, gender, race/ethnicity).”

Forty-nine percent of respondents identify “finding strategies to help students who are concerned about fitting in because they are struggling academically” as challenging or very challenging.

Respondents work in a variety of school environments, but the sample is not nationally representative. Results were not weighted to represent national demographics.

The Education Week Research Center worked with educators and researchers who study students’ academic mindsets to formulate survey questions.

The findings come as researchers emphasize the importance of students’ perceptions of their school culture and how those perceptions affect their motivation.

A student who feels like the school environment is unjust or designed for someone from a different cultural background may become disengaged or not recognize his or her own potential, researchers say. That feeling can be reinforced by factors like a lack of diversity in school reading materials, unfair dress codes, or the sense that, for example, a mostly white, female teaching staff relates to some students differently than others.

Researchers recommend a range of practices, including encouraging teachers to be “warm demanders” who call out the strengths of individual students, actively challenging stereotypes that students may internalize, strengthening connections between a school and its surrounding community, and taking students on college visits at early ages to help them visualize themselves there.

In an open-ended question, the Education Week Research Center asked respondents to identify the most significant challenges they face in building a sense of belonging for their students. The research center then categorized responses to look for trends.The most common type of barrier identified was student attitudes and lack of self-confidence. Thirty-one percent of responses fell into this category.

“Most significant challenges: Getting the student past a negative self perception,” one respondent wrote. “I find this to be the toughest thing to do when we have a jam-packed class period where I have limited opportunity to work just 1:1.”

Twenty-three percent of responses related to students’ past experiences or instability at home.

“It’s very hard day in and day out to convince them that they are loved, valued, and respected when they go home every night to a dysfunctional home,” one respondent said.

Educators also say a lack of resources and time, bullying or difficult interactions among classmates, and academic priorities are barriers to helping students belong.

They also single out extra challenges faced by some student groups, like those in special education programs, and a lack of support from administrators and colleagues.

Coverage of learning mindsets and skills is supported in part by a grant from the Raikes Foundation, at www.raikesfoundation.org. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
Coverage of learning mindsets and skills is supported in part by a grant from the Raikes Foundation, at www.raikesfoundation.org. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
A version of this article appeared in the June 21, 2017 edition of Education Week as Belonging at School Starts With Teachers

Events

Student Well-Being Webinar Boosting Teacher and Student Motivation During the Pandemic: What It Takes
Join Alyson Klein and her expert guests for practical tips and discussion on how to keep students and teachers motivated as the pandemic drags on.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Holistic Approach to Social-Emotional Learning
Register to learn about the components and benefits of holistically implemented SEL.
Content provided by Committee for Children
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Principals Can Support Student Well-Being During COVID
Join this webinar for tips on how to support and prioritize student health and well-being during COVID.
Content provided by Unruly Studios

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Interdisciplinary STEAM Specialist
Smyrna, Georgia
St. Benedict's Episcopal School
Interdisciplinary STEAM Specialist
Smyrna, Georgia
St. Benedict's Episcopal School
Arizona School Data Analyst - (AZVA)
Arizona, United States
K12 Inc.
Software Engineer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association

Read Next

School & District Management New York City's Equity-Minded Schools Chief Resigns
Richard A. Carranza, the chancellor of the New York City schools, announced Feb. 26 he will step down from the job next month.
4 min read
Richard Carranza, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, arrives to Public School 188 The Island School as students arrive for in-person classes, on, Sept. 29, 2020, in the Manhattan borough of New York.
Richard A. Carranza announced he will depart the top New York City schools job in March.
John Minchillo/AP
School & District Management Opinion New Resource Tracks School System Reopening
The Return to Learn Tracker identifies the current instructional model of all regular public school districts with three or more schools.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School & District Management San Francisco School Board Pauses Renaming 44 Schools, Promises to Consult Historians
The renaming of 44 schools in the San Francisco Unified School District is apparently being put on hold after intense blowback.
Greg Keraghosian
1 min read
A pedestrian walks below a sign for Dianne Feinstein Elementary School in San Francisco, on Dec. 17, 2020. The San Francisco Unified School District put the renaming of 44 schools, including Dianne Feinstein Elementary School, on hold after local and national blowback.
A pedestrian walks below a sign for Dianne Feinstein Elementary School in San Francisco, on Dec. 17, 2020. The San Francisco Unified School District put the renaming of 44 schools, including Dianne Feinstein Elementary School, on hold after local and national blowback.<br/><br/>
Jeff Chiu/AP
School & District Management Superintendent Who Led During COVID-19 School Shutdowns Gets Top Honors
Michelle Reid of Washington state's Northshore district, one of the very first to close schools last March, was named National Superintendent of the Year.
3 min read
Michelle Reid, superintendent of the Northshore district in Washington
Michelle Reid, the superintendent of the Northshore district in Washington, was named National Superintendent of the Year.
courtesy of AASA, the School Superintendents Association