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
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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.
A version of this article appeared in the June 21, 2017 edition of Education Week as Belonging at School Starts With Teachers


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

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
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
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
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
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
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management From Our Research Center Educators' Support for COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates Is Rising Dramatically
Nearly 60 percent of educators say students who are old enough to receive COVID vaccines should be required to get them to attend school.

4 min read
Mariah Vaughn, a 15-year-old Highland Park student, prepares to receive a COVID-19 vaccine during the vaccine clinic at Topeka High School on Monday, Aug. 9, 2021.
Mariah Vaughn, 15, a student at Highland Park High School in Topeka, Kan., prepares to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at her school in August.
Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP
School & District Management 10 Ways to Tackle Education's Urgent Challenges
As the school year gets underway, we ask hard questions about education’s biggest challenges and offer some solutions.
2 min read
Conceptual Image of schools preparing for the pandemic
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
School & District Management Reported Essay Principals Need Social-Emotional Support, Too
By overlooking the well-being of their school leaders, districts could limit how much their schools can flourish.
7 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
School & District Management From Our Research Center Educator Stress, Anti-Racism, and Pandemic Response: How You're Feeling
A new nationally representative survey offers key takeaways from teachers, principals, and district leaders.
EdWeek Research Center
1 min read
2021 BI COVER no text DATA crop
Pep Montserrat for Education Week