An intervention to raise a sense of belonging and associated outcomes for secondary aged pupils with low socioeconomic status

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Joanne Lambeth
Submitted: June 2017


The first chapter of this document outlines a systematic literature review regarding the relationship between belonging and academic achievement, specifically in relation to adolescents. Three databases were systematically searched following a clear search strategy and inclusion criteria. Nineteen articles were identified and critically appraised in order to understand the current picture of the research. On balance, the review highlights that belonging is significantly related to academic achievement. This relationship was found across gender and different cultures. In addition, within the concept of belonging, some factors seem to influence achievement more than others, e.g., relatedness to teachers. However taken together, it indicates that relationships in general are important to support achievement. This review also highlights factors that contribute to differences in belonging and achievement such as gender (with girls achieving higher levels of both) and marginalisation by ethnicity and socioeconomic status. In addition, the articles indentified a range of variables that help to explain the relationship including academic emotions, engagement, behaviour conduct, educational efficacy and purpose. Despite the findings reported in the literature, there is a lack of experimental research regarding this relationship and the conclusion remains correlational. Following this review a gap in the literature appears regarding how to increase belonging and consequently achievement, using an experimental design. In addition, it highlights to educational professionals that relationships are important in supporting achievement and should be adequately supported in educational settings.

The second chapter of this document reports on experimental research conducted on the topic of belonging and associated outcomes for young adolescents. Previous research demonstrated that a brief psychological intervention increased belonging and attainment for a marginalised population (individuals from African American backgrounds) upon transition to a new environment (college) (Walton & Cohen, 2011). The current research adapted and used this intervention with a different population, i.e., young adolescents who may experience marginalisation due to low socioeconomic status (SES), upon transition to secondary school. The aim of the intervention is to target individuals who may worry about belonging and implicitly change their attributions about negative experiences, i.e., that perceptions of social adversity are common and time limited, not due to the individual themselves. Three schools based in low SES areas agreed to take part. Year 7 pupils (N = 62) were allocated to either an intervention group (n = 25) or active control group (n = 37). Measures of anxiety about belonging and SES were taken pre-intervention. Measures of belonging, attainment and attendance were taken across a period of six months. Correlational analysis found that SES was significantly related to anxiety about belonging, i.e., those with low SES had higher levels of anxiety. Multiple regression analysis also found that SES significantly predicted attainment. T-tests were used to analyse the difference between the intervention and control conditions in regards to belonging, attainment and attendance. However, no differences were found between the intervention and control groups. Future directions regarding the development of this intervention are discussed.

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