Understanding students’ sense of belonging at school: A view from the National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement

Mustafa Asil, Albert Kienfie Liau, Alison Gilmore

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Abstract

Introduction and purpose of the study
Educational research has demonstrated that students’ sense of belonging at school is an important schooling outcome in its own right. There is also widespread research evidence that it has a positive influence on various learning outcomes including students’ academic achievement, wellbeing, persistence and engagement. According to the latest international assessment study (PISA, 2015), (i) New Zealand students, on average, have a lower sense of belonging at school than the OECD average, and (ii) this has weakened significantly since 2003. Therefore, it is important that we try to gain a better understanding of New Zealand students’ sense of belonging at school. The 2017 National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA) provided an opportunity to do this.

The purpose of the present study is to investigate the following questions:
a.How positive are New Zealand students in their sense of belonging at school?
b.Are there any differences in students’ sense of belonging at school by year level, gender, ethnicity, and school decile?
c.To what extent are students’ sense of belonging at school related to their attitude and confidence to learn in health, physical education and science?

The NMSSA study and sample
NMSSA is designed to assess and understand student achievement across the New Zealand Curriculum at Year 4 and Year 8 in English-medium state schools. In 2017, the focus areas were health, physical education and science. The nationally representative sample included 2084 Year 4 and 2036 Year 8 students from 199 schools (100 at Year 4, 99 at Year 8).

Methodology
Item Response Theory (Rasch) was employed to construct measurement scales of ‘Belonging at School’ and their ‘Attitude’ to and ‘Confidence’ to learn health, physical education and science. We will use regression-based techniques (e.g. multilevel analyses and structural equation modelling) to investigate students’ sense of belonging at school (i) nationally and by sub-groups, and (ii) its association with attitude and confidence to learn each area.

Findings and Discussion
The paper will report the results of the analyses outlined above. Results will also be considered in light of New Zealand PISA results. The findings of this study will be of interest to educators, researchers and policy makers seeking to positively influence students’ learning and achievement by identifying effective ways of fostering their sense of belonging at school.

Keywords: sense of belonging, attitude, confidence
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018
EventNew Zealand Association for Research in Education (NZARE) Conference 2018: Shaping our Futures: Celebrating Transformative Educational Research / Maui Taumata Rau - AUT, Auckland, New Zealand
Duration: 26 Nov 201828 Nov 2018
Conference number: Volume 40, Issue 3
https://nzare.org.nz/ (New Zealand Association for Research in Education (NZARE))
http://chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://nzare.org.nz/assets/Uploads/Newsletters/HePatakaTukuKorero-Issue3-2018.pdf (Conference information)

Conference

ConferenceNew Zealand Association for Research in Education (NZARE) Conference 2018: Shaping our Futures
Country/TerritoryNew Zealand
CityAuckland
Period26/11/1828/11/18
OtherCelebrating transformative educational research, policy, and pedagogies that foster the wellbeing of people and planet.
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