Motivation and emotion/Book/2016/School belonging motivation

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School belonging motivation:
What motivates students to belong in schooling communities?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Imagine you are a student at school, noticing that all the students around you are talking excitedly, exchanging their ideas, discussing relevant topics with their friends and playing together. How would that make you feel? Happy? Excited? Interested? Imagine, now, however, if you were the student that wasn't doing all those wonderful things. How would that make you feel? Lonely? Sad? Angry? Frustrated? Belonging for students in school communities is a fundamental consideration for teachers, school counsellors, peers and other staff members. For some students, school is their first home. For others, school is a burden and a nightmare. Goodenow (1993) defines a student's sense of school belonging as the psychological membership that they have with their school, where it is the extent to which students feel personally connected, accepted, respected, included and supported at school or in the classroom.      

This chapter will explore the relevant theory in explaining students[grammar?] belonging in school communities, with particular focus on the school classroom community through identifying:      

  • What is belonging?
  • What is motivation?
  • What is well-being?
  • What is Self-determination theory?
  • The benefits of belonging
  • The disadvantages of not belonging
  • How do you measure school belonging?

Theoretical background on belonging[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs states that individuals need strong, close, warm relationships to fulfil their sense of belonging.

Extant literature regarding the belonging hypothesis has sought to elucidate this motive in a variety of theoretical explanations. For example, Freud (1930) explained the need for close interpersonal connectedness as a derivative of the sex drive and the familial bond. Conversely, in his motivational theory Maslow (1968) placed “love and belonging” at the centre. Maslow (1968) suggested the belongingness needs are antecedent before esteem and self-actualisation, however, belongingness needs do not develop until food, safety, hunger and other basic needs are placated.

Similarly, Attachment theory proposed by Bowlby (1973), suggests that individuals need to form and sustain close emotional bonds. Attachment theory followed the Freudian hypothesis that individuals need close emotional bonds to regain the close intimate contact of infancy that an individual had with his or her mother (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). According to Hazan and Shaver (1994), attachment theory has two important strengths:

  1. The acknowledgement of individual differences regarding types of attachment
  2. The emphasis that attachment theory places on emotional needs that are inherent in certain kinds of relationships.

Additionally, Baumeister and Leary (1995) suggest that the need to belong is distinguishable from the mere need for social contact in terms of whether interactions with acquaintances or strangers would satisfy the need. Baumeister and Leary (1995) hypothesise that belonging is a fundamental human motivation and suggest nine [what?] components to support their claim:

  1. The {{what}] effects are readily produced under all hostile conditions
  2. Affective significance
  3. Related to cognitive processing
  4. Adverse effects when unsatisfied
  5. Stimulate goal-directed behaviour to satisfy
  6. Common to all individuals
  7. Not derived from other motives
  8. Effects various behaviours [vague]
  9. Have implications that extend beyond the immediate psychological functioning.

What is motivation?[edit | edit source]

Motivation is a theoretical concept used in the explanation of behaviour, where it is characterised as the energisation (inducement) and direction of behaviour (Deci & Ryan, 2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation theory refers to two important conditions. Firstly, students distinguishing the learning environment to be informational, rather than controlling, supports the individual through information rather than performance feedback (Dickinson, 1995). Secondly, the learning environment is autonomy supportive in that it enables self-determination for the individual (Dickinson, 1995).

Intrinsic motivation[edit | edit source]

According to Deci and Ryan (1985) intrinsic motivation refers to the individual’s innate propensity to seek out novelty and challenge to exercise one’s capacities in the areas of exploring and learning. Deci and Ryan (2000) suggest that sustaining and improving intrinsic motivation requires supportive conditions. However, research indicates that physical rewards, coercion, deadlines, pressured evaluations and compulsory goals reduce intrinsic motivation, where the individual is more likely to move toward an external perceived locus of causality (Deci, Koestner, & Ryan, 1999).    

Extrinsic motivation[edit | edit source]

In contrast to intrinsic motivation, Deci and Ryan (2000) define extrinsic motivation as behaviours that individuals engage in, in order to achieve an unconnected [say what?] outcome. Additionally, Deci and Ryan (2000) propose four components of extrinsic motivation that reflect the varying capacity of these motivations and whether the behaviour becomes internalised and integrated.

Table 1.

Four types of extrinsic motivation.

Externally regulated This aspect is the least autonomous, where a behaviour is executed to satiate an external contingency (Deci & Ryan, 2000).
Introjected regulation This characteristic of extrinsic motivation refers to the acceptance of a regulation that is not one's own, where behaviours are completed to reduce feelings such as guilt and anxiety (Deci & Ryan, 2000).
Regulation through identification This facet refers to a more autonomous or self-determinated aspect of extrinsic motivation, where the individual consciously regards the goal of the beahviour as personally relevant (Deci & Ryan, 2000).
Integrated regulation This form of extrinsic motivation is most autonomous, where identified regulations are fully integrated within the self, consistent to the needs and values of the individual (Deci & Ryan, 2000). While this aspect reflects similarities with intrinsic motivation, it differs as the behaviour is still performed to achieve an unconnected outcome rather than for the innate tendency to engage in a behaviour (Deci & Ryan, 2000).

Well-being and goals[edit | edit source]

Well-being is an important aspect of students’ motivation to belong in school communities. Well-being refers to positive mental health including, positive emotionality, the lack of negative emotionality, a sense of purpose and being content with one’s life (Deci & Ryan, 2000). Student well-being is not only important when discussing peer relationships, it is important consideration for teachers, school counsellors and other relevant staff members.  

{{what]] Purpose has a strong focus in motivational research, particularly concerning the development of attitudes, the strength and quality of behaviour (Urdan & Maehr, 1995). Research has focused primarily on task and ego goals and the relationship between purpose and achievement. However, well-being and goals have an important relationship. Kaplan and Maehr (1999) suggest that task goals is the participation in an activity where the objective is to develop skills, increase competence and stimulate understanding. Individuals are more likely to invest in the task by utilising adaptive learning strategies, while self-regulating their behaviour (Kaplan & Maehr, 1999). In contrast, ego goals refer to the pursuing of self-enhancing social comparison, where the individual focuses on quick solutions, maladaptive learning approaches and success related in social contrast (Kaplan & Maehr, 1999).

Dweck (1986) suggested that students adopting ego goals, particularly those with low perceived ability, are more likely to produce a “helpless” pattern when faced with failure. Students reported negative self-evaluations, displayed negative affect and disconnection from the task (Dweck,1986). In comparison, students’ adopting task goals produced “mastery” patterns, where students perceiving the situation as a challenge retained an optimistic orientation, positive affect and attempted to adapt their problem-solving approaches (Dewck,1986). The type of goals that students adopt has an important association with well-being, particularly concerning the experience of failure, influencing students’ well-being more generally (Kaplan & Maehr, 1999). Social comparison for self-enhancement has been found to be associated with a number of maladaptive strategies, including the decrease of general well-being (Covington,1992).

Self-determination theory[edit | edit source]

Self-determination theory is used in the explanation of motivational behaviour, proposed by Deci and Ryan (2000). Self-determination theory focuses on three innate psychological needs that encourage individuals toward the instigation of behaviour. The three elements or basic psychological needs include autonomy, competence and relatedness (Deci & Ryan, 2000). Self-determination theory utilises empirical research to explore individuals' innate growth tendencies and inherent psychological needs for self-motivation, through the examination of conditions that facilitate positive development ((Deci & Ryan, 2000). Additionally, research indicates that teachers who meet students’ basic needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness cultivate motivation and increase positive adjustment in school (Deci et al., 1991).

Autonomy[edit | edit source]

Autonomy is an important psychological need. Autonomy encompasses the desire for choice and versatility in decision-making processes. Deci and Ryan (1985) propose that autonomy is the psychological need for individuals to involve themselves in self-direction through the instigation of directive behaviour. In the classroom context, autonomy for students encompasses the need for flexibility over decision-making regarding the need for “initiation, inhibition, maintenance and redirection of activities” (Connell, 1990, p.65). Furthermore, facilitating choice, appreciation of feelings and assisting in experiences of self-direction allow for greater autonomy (Deci et al.,1999).

Supporting Autonomy[edit | edit source]

Supporting autonomy refers to the extent to which an individuals needs are supported and nurtured (Niemiec & Ryan, 2009). Furthermore, Niemiec and Ryan (2009) suggest that teachers can support the autonomy of their students through the minimisation of evaluative pressure and maximise autonomy through perceptions of having a voice and supplying alternatives in the activities in which students engage.

Numerous [Rewrite to improve clarity] research has been conducted in assessing the differences between supporting students autonomy and situations that control in classroom environments (Deci, Schwartz, Sheinman & Ryan 1981). In contrast, controlling situations refer to the negligence and prevention of an individual's need for autonomy (Deci et al.,1981). Furthermore, Deci et al. (1981) assessed two different types of teaching styles, autonomy supportive and controlling, hypothesising that some teachers orientate toward supporting students and others toward controlling behaviour. Results indicate that students who had autonomy supportive teachers exhibited more intrinsic motivation, perceived confidence and self-esteem than students with controlling teachers (Deci et al., 1981).

Competence[edit | edit source]

Figure 2. Venn diagram depicting Self-Determination Theory.

Deci and Ryan (1985) suggest that competence is the psychological need for individual to be active in their contact within their environment. Furthermore, competence includes the individual's desire to extend their skills and abilities by engaging in optimal and developmentally relevant challenges (Deci & Ryan, 1985). Competence is an essential facet for teachers to consider in order for students to feel as though they have the ability to exert their capacities in engaging and relevant challenges. Two important components utilised throughout classrooms to facilitate competency are structure and feedback.  

Structure[edit | edit source]

Competence is facilitated by the formation of structure (Miserandino, 1996). Structure is an important aspect for students to feel belonging in the classroom context. Jang, Reeve and Deci (2010) suggest that teachers provide a highly structured learning context through the use of;

  1. Clear goals, directions and learning objectives
  2. Helpful guidance and mentoring
  3. Direct, applicable skill-building feedback.

An example of providing structure within the classroom is the facilitation of a mastery goal. Ames (1992) suggested three important classroom structures to assist in developing a mastery goal, including task structure, authority structure and lastly, evaluation structure. Firstly, task structures that utilise instructional strategies aimed at directing meaningful characteristics of learning activities, creating tasks for novelty and student interest and lastly, designing tasks that offer challenge for students produce positive motivational patterns (Ames, 1992). Secondly, authority structure within the classroom is important in developing mastery goals. Instructional strategies include providing participation within decision making, choice based on effort, facilitating independence and supporting development through self-management (Ames, 1992). Lastly, evaluation structure facilitates the development of a mastery goal through instructional strategies that comprise individual mastery and progress, recognise effort and highlight that mistakes are a part of learning (Ames, 1992). Motivational patterns that arise from facilitating a mastery goal through structure include high intrinsic motivation, failure-tolerance, perceptions of belongingness, dynamic engagement in an activity and positive affect on activities that requires high effort (Ames, 1992).

Feedback[edit | edit source]

Harackiewicz and Larson (1986) suggest that positive feedback increases intrinsic motivation as it augments perceived competence. However, research indicates that improvement in perceived competence is only effective when the feedback is supplemented with support for autonomy (Ryan, 1982). Similarly, Ames (1992) suggests that teachers can facilitate the increase in students’ competence and intrinsic motivation by providing evaluation feedback on the effort exerted in the task rather than providing feedback on the ability. Additionally, Deci, Cascio and Krussel (1973) suggest that negative feedback whether administered internally or externally, articulated as failure, decreases intrinsic motivation by decreasing perceived competence. Furthermore, the reduction of perceived competence can leave individuals feeling amotivated or helpless (Boggiano & Barrett, 1985).  

Relatedness[edit | edit source]

Relatedness refers to the psychological need for individuals to create close emotional bonds and attachments with other people, reflecting the aspiration to be emotionally connected and interpersonally invested in close, warm relationships (Ryan, 1991). This aspect of the self-determination theory reflects the need for individuals to establish caring and loving relationships. Moreover, relatedness is a need-satisfying construct in which individuals gravitate toward those that provide them with the prospect to relate themselves in an expressively and mutually beneficial way (Ryan, 1993). Relatedness is an important aspect for students to feel a sense of belonging and connectedness in school communities. Niemiec and Ryan (2009) suggest that relatedness is linked to the student thinking that he or she is valued, respected and supported by the teacher. This is further evidenced as students are more likely to display identifiable and cohesive direction when engaging in demanding tasks in learning (Niemiec & Ryan, 2009). Additionally, Niemiec and Ryan (2009) propose that individuals internalise and decide on their ideals and practices with those when they feel connected and experience a sense of belonging.

School belonging programs: A case study[edit | edit source]

Grace is an eight-year-old student in Year Two at her local government school. Grace has had a difficult early life moving from foster home to foster home. Grace is generally happy and an intelligent student. However, she is often unsettled, manipulative and disruptive. Grace's foster mother has been trying to teach Grace about belonging and appropriate strong close attachments. Grace's foster mother consulted with Grace's teacher about trying to provide Grace with a strong sense of school membership and belonging. Grace's teacher decided that this was important not only for Grace but for all her students. From this, Grace's teacher created Just for Girls. Just for Girls is a program based upon psychological motivational theory including the components of Self-determination theory, psychological well-being and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. While this is not a formalised program, Just for Girls is an example that one teacher utilises to promote school belonging in the classroom.

Figure 3. Just for Girls promotes friendship and belonging as its core tenets.

One particular aspect of Just for Girls is the application of the component relatedness, from Deci and Ryan's (2000) self-determination theory. Discussion surrounding belonging and forgiveness through the brainstorming of:

  • What is a friend?
  • What constitutes a friend/s?
  • How do friends treat each other?
  • Do friends boss each other around?
  • Does a friend ask you to do the wrong thing?
  • What happens when friends fight?

Discussion also surrounds issues such as personal worries and finding someone to talk to when there is a problem. Moreover, activities address self-esteem including; What is self-esteem? How does it affect our sense of belonging? Activities are also designed to change negative thinking and addressing failure tolerance through understanding that students can change a negative into a positive. Just for Girls also explores the topic of role models and promotes that girls can become their own role model and can make decisions for their future. Examples cited include Cathy Freeman, Martin Luther King Jr, Anne Frank and Nelson Mandela. Presently, Just for Girls is in its second year of implementation, with 100% support of parents[factual?]. Grace's teacher has received positive verbal and written feedback from Grace's foster parents and other parents supporting the program. Just for Girls was designed to explore students sense of belonging in the school environment and the wider community. The objective of this program is to empower students about their self-worth, belonging to a wider community and lastly, providing skills on reliance on themselves and their judgement to form good choices regarding friendship groups and behavioural situations for their long-term future.

Benefits of school belonging[edit | edit source]

There are numerous benefits for students with a sense of belonging in school communities across a number of variables including academic achievement, social, emotional aspects and maladaptive behaviours. Furthermore, school belonging is predicted by factors including prior schooling achievement and academic motivational variables (Anderman, 2003).

Anderman, Andrzwejewski and Allen (2011) suggest that students with a strong sense of belonging are more likely to[Provide more detail]:

  • Have higher expectations for achievement in class
  • More likely to describe tasks as being stimulating, essential and beneficial
  • More likely to have higher intrinsic motivation toward mastery goals orientations in class.
Figure 4. Strong peer relations are an important aspect of school belonging motivation.

In addition, Anderman et al. (2011) also reported general measures including[Provide more detail]:

  • Higher school-related motivation
  • Self-reported effort
  • Lower levels of absenteeism.

Furthermore, Resnick et al. (1997) suggests that a sense of school belonging is connected to lower instances of:[Provide more detail]:

  • Emotional distress
  • Lower suicide ideation
  • Lower levels of participation in violent activities
  • Less likely to engage in tobacco, alcohol and marijuana use.

Lastly, Anderman (2002) proposes that students’ belonging also includes[Provide more detail]:

  • Lower levels of depression
  • Higher levels of positive school-related affect
  • Increased levels of optimism
  • Higher levels of empathy
  • Increased self-esteem.

Students who recognise that they have strong emotional support and security at school are associated with positive academic and social outcomes (Anderman, 2002; Resnick et al., 1997). Moreover, the establishment of a strong sense of belonging is enhanced via strong peer relationships as students understand that they can rely on others when in a time of upheaval (Hamm & Faircloth, 2005).

Disadvantages of not belonging[edit | edit source]

While there are numerous advantages for students who belong in school communities, there are disadvantages for students who do not perceive a strong sense of belonging to school. Students who are aware of disconnection or do not have supportive peer relationships and strong emotional support, often do not develop a strong sense of belonging and are more likely to attain lower levels of academic outcomes and poorer social adjustment (Wentzel, Battle, Russell, & Looney, 2010). Motivation is also affected by students who perceive that they are disconnected. For example, Niemiec and Ryan (2009) suggest that students who recognise that they are detached or excluded by teachers or peers are more likely to respond to external contingencies and controls rather than internalisation.

Measuring students' belonging[edit | edit source]

The most widely recognised scale to measure adolescent student belongingness is the 18-item Psychological Sense of School Membership Scale (PSSM), developed by Goodenow (1993). The PSSM is operationally measured by attaining a sense of belonging variable through calculating the total PSSM score from the average item response across all 18 items, including 5 negatively worded items that are reversed coded (Ye & Wallace, 2014). The development of the PSSM scale by Goodenow (1993) was ascertained by investigating students in junior high school, between grades 7-9 regarding their perceptions of their level of membership at school, their expectations of achievement and their evaluation of academic tasks. The most recent analysis by Ye and Wallace (2014) sought to determine the factor structure of the PSSM from a sample of 504 Australian high school students. Ye and Wallace (2014) conducted an Exploratory Factor Analysis and a Confirmatory Factor Analysis which revealed three factors comprising; caring relationships with others, acceptance and rejection. However, Ye and Wallace (2014) propose that further examination of the factor structure is needed, as the PSSM scale contains only one-negatively worded item for two factors, where further research is needed to include more measures that contain positive and negatively worded items. Student perceptions of belonging and psychological membership is subjective, which is typically measured via self-report inventories, case studies or interviews (Goodenow, 1993). Due to the subjective nature of student perceptions of their school belonging, it is paramount that the psychometric properties of the PSSM scale measure what it is designed to measure to apply the results practically (Ye & Wallace, 2014).

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Feeling a sense of belonging to school communities is multifaceted. Psychological theory posits that student belonging is related to intrinsic motivation, well-being and the components of Self-Determination Theory: autonomy, competence and relatedness. Additionally, students’ perceptions of belonging are related to positive academic, social, emotional and motivational variables. However, students who perceive that they are disconnected from schooling communities are more likely to report lower levels of belonging and have poorer academic, social, emotional and motivational output.  

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Ames, C. (1992). Classroom: Goals, structures, and student motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84(3), 261-271. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.84.3.261

Anderman, E.M. (2002). School effects on psychological outcomes during adolescence. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(4), 795-809. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.94.4.795 10.1037/0022-0663.94.4.795

Anderman, L.H., Andrzwejewski, C.E., & Allen, J. (2011). How do teachers support students' motivation and learning in their classrooms? Teachers College Record, 113(5), 969-1003.

Anderman, L. H. (2003). Academic and social perceptions as predictors of change in middle school students' sense of school belonging. The Journal of Experimental Education, 72(1), 5-22. doi: 10.1080/00220970309600877

Baumeister, R., & Leary, M.R. (1995). The need to belong: desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.497

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Bowlby, J. (1973). Attachment and loss: Vol. 2. Separation anxiety and anger. New York: Basic Books.

Connell, J. (1990). Self in translation: Infancy to childhood. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Covington, M. (1992). Making the grade: A self-worth perspective on motivation and school reform. Cambridge University Press.

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Wentzel, K. R., Battle, A., Russell, S.L., & Looney, L.B. (2010). Social supports from teachers and peers as predictors of academic and social motivation. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 35, 193-202. doi: 10.1016/j.cedpsych.2010.03.002

Ye, F., & Wallace, T.L. (2014). Psychological sense of school membership scale method effects associated with negatively word items. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 32(3), 202-215. doi: 10.1177/0734282913504816

External Links[edit | edit source]