Adolescents Crave School Belonging

Baumeister and Leary (1995) characterize the need to belong or feel connected as “a pervasive drive to form and maintain at least a minimum quantity of lasting, positive and significant interpersonal relationships” (p. 497). They have argued that belonging is a fundamental motivation, functions in a broad variety of settings, and is essential for well-being. In this vein, self-determination theory (SDT) posits that relatedness is one of three basic psychological needs inherent to humans. According to SDT, satisfaction of these basic needs fosters well-being, and support for and satisfaction of each is a necessary condition for a person’s ongoing growth and well-being (Connell & Wellborn, 1991; Deci & Ryan, 2000; Ryan & Deci, 2000; Ryan & Powelson, 1991).

Educational research examining students’ school connectedness or sense of belonging to school is one of the few disciplines to examine positive developmental outcomes. School connectedness, using measures tapping perceptions of school cli- mate and quality of teacher–student relationships, as well as feelings of belonging, inclusion, acceptance, and interpersonal support, has been linked to a range of positive academic outcomes, including student engagement, academic achievement, success expectations, self-efficacy, effort, academic motivation, and task goal orientation (Anderman & Anderman, 1999; Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 2009; Connell & Wellborn, 1991; Crosnoe, 2004; Furrer & Skinner, 2003; Klem & Connell, 2004; Witherspoon, Schotland, Way, & Hughes, 2009; Woolley, Kol, & Bowen, 2009; Zimmer-Gem- beck, Chipuer, Hanisch, Creed, & McGregor, 2006).

Research by Anderman (2002) investigated the relation between perceptions of school belonging and optimism. The cross-sectional study showed that higher levels of individual sense of belonging to school were associated with greater optimism. Israelashvili (1997) found that sense of school membership was positively associated with expectations of future success in a sample of 5th–12th grade students. Students’ feelings of being respected and accepted by peers and school staff were seen as important correlates to their future expectations.

IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self, as well as developing an understanding of students’ and parents’ values; having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown that it is linked to better well-being, less stress, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed. IINII has extensive experience in building and using an Indigenous research paradigm.

Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally sustaining practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a dynamic youth-centered environment that honors the unique values of your students and parents, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

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