What is it?
Belonging is the feeling that I am a valued, contributing member of a group with other human beings to whom I feel responsible. I feel recognised and do not fear embarrassment or compared to my peers. I feel free to learn from my failures as well as my successes. This is true whether I am a child or an adult.
Reflective Questions on Belonging:
- What do you understand by “belonging” and its significance in your school?
- How do you think a sense of belonging is related to well being and achievement?
- How would you find out the views of the following in relation to their sense of belonging to the school?
- What sort of things might be done to increase a sense of belonging among:
Why is it important?
Schools need to be social institutions with a pedagogy of well being. The two most important social institutions in the life of a child are usually their family and their school. Hopefully both function effectively but for some children the school becomes more significant in redressing some of the challenges in their family. If a family is distressed then it is even more important that the school assists a child’s healthy development.
Wellbeing is essential to learning. Teachers need to understand this connection particuarly the link between secure attachment and a disposition to learn. Bowlby’s (1969-80) theory of attachment tells us that children need a reliable attachment figure and a secure relationship in order to be able to trust, regulate emotions and be open to take the risks necessary to learn.
Youell (2006) argues that we should give teachers the right working conditions, a manageable number of people for children to relate to, and the level and quality of supervision needed to promote young people’s emotional engagment with learning.
Smerdon (2002) argues that pupils with poor school performance often do not see themselves as belonging to the school community. As a result they lose motivation to achieve.
Research into the Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning Project (SEAL) in England showed that whole school practices that were related to SEAL were statistically linked to higher achievement and lower persistent absence via a more overall positive ethos of the school. Importantly this research claimed that nearly 50% of school level variance between test scores at the age of 14 and those at the age of 16 could be accounted for by whole school implementation of SEAL and resultant differences in school ethos.
A report (2011) by the 24 country OECD on how to achieve equity in education argues that all students can attain high level skills regardless of their personal and socio-economic circumstances by increasing the frequency and quality of student- student and student-teacher interactions.
Fielding (2012) has argued convincingly for a focus on relationships in schools and contrasts performance-focused schools where relationships can be manipulated to get the test scores up and pupils have a poor sense of belonging with person-centred schools that build a sense of belonging in students by putting relationships at the centre of the school.
PROGRESS (2013) has analysed data from 90 schools involving 30,000 pupils and 5,000 staff using its diagnostic (see Audit section). The more that pupils see themselves as belonging (safe and important in the school and connected to the people in it and to the school itself) the more likely they are to attain higher test grades.
Thus, in self-evaluating our schools it is important to try to discover to what extent pupils (and staff) feel they belong and what we can do to increase their sense of belonging. This will contribute to their well being and in turn enable them to realise their potential more.
- HIGH TECH HIGH, SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA, USA
- BISHOP PARK SCHOOL, JAYWICK, ESSEX, ENGLAND
Research Article (Recommended reading)
Audit tool on Belonging
Web link to Progress book.
Permission obtained from James Park, Director of Antidote to use PROGESS diagnostic via weblink.
PROGRESS is a process for enriching school cultures so as to give all young people the best possible opportunities to learn, grow and achieve through assessing and increasing their sense of belonging..
Just as an apricot tree that grows in well-nourished soil is the one that will produce the richest and juiciest fruit, so a supportive and affirming school culture will unleash energy and excitement for learning.
How PROGRESS works is:
- The PROGRESS Diagnostic gives staff, students and parents the opportunity to provide an honest account of how school culture affects their sense of belonging and their capacity to learn, grow and achieve.
- Feedback on this data informs reflective conversations between and among staff, students and parents about how to enhance school culture and increase people’s sense of belonging so as to enhance wellbeing and raise achievement.
- The ideas that emerge are integrated into a coherent and sustainable strategy that will have an impact on belonging, wellbeing and achievement that is bigger than the sum of its parts.
WHAT IT MEASURES
VIEW REPORTS FROM PROGRESS DIAGNOSTIC TO SEE HOW PROGRESS WILL REPORT ON YOUR SCHOOL’S LEARNING CLIMATE
THE DIMENSIONS THAT THE PROGRESS DIAGNOSTIC CAN MEASURE ARE:
Staff experience of the learning environment as leading to their feeling:
- Appreciated: I am treated by my colleagues as someone who is making a useful contribution and has interesting things to say;
- Capable: I feel that I am doing a good job while being true to myself;
- Enabled: I have opportunities to reflect with my colleagues on how I can improve the way I work;
- Empowered: the school provides me with the support I need to become increasingly effective in my role.
Student experience the learning environment as being:
- Responsive: the school has ways of enabling me to address the things that might get in the way of my learning;
- Affirming: the experience of being with others in this school makes me feel confident in myself as a learner.
& leading to their feeling:
- Engaged by Learning: I am interested in my learning, see the point and generally value the opportunities offered by this school.
- Connected to Adults: teachers and other adults listen to me and talk to me in ways that enable me to know myself better;
- Connected to Other Students: other students listen to me and talk to me in ways that enable me to know myself better.
Student rating of themselves on their capacity to:
- Being a Joined-up Thinker: I look for connections between the different things I learn and like to find a reason for learning them;
- Being an Enquirer: I enjoy exploring deeply so that I can really understand what I am learning and master things that are initially difficult;
- Being a Creative Learner: I like playing with ideas and trying out new ways of doing things;
- Learning with Others: I like picking up ideas from other people and working with them to achieve great results;
- Being a Planner: I organise my work carefully and look for ways of improving how I learn;
- Being Resilient: I don't get phased when learning is hard, and will at a problem until I have found a solution I have found a solution.
Student rating of their personal effectiveness on:
- Optimism: seeing life and situations in a positive way;
- Imagination: being able to some up with different ways of solving problems;
- Integrity: being true to oneself
- Confidence: being comfortable with one’s ability to do things
- Using Anger Well: finding positive ways of dealing with angry feelings;
- Empathy: seeing things from other people’s point of view and being able to understand an opinion different from your own:
- Being Helpful: putting empathy into action and going out of one’s way to help other people;
- Working Together: being able to notice what others are good at, encourage them and value their contribution;
- Fitting in: finding a sense of belonging even when you want to be on your own
- Communicating Well: listening attentively and speaking clearly
- Keeping Going: carrying on in the face of difficulty
- Staying on Track: able to keep cool in tense situations and not get diverted from what one is doing.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS about the progress diagnostic
1. WHAT’S THE POINT OF MY SCHOOL DOING PROGRESS?
Schools nowadays spend a lot of time looking at students’ academic performance. PROGRESS enables them to look at things from the other end with a focus on belonging: what is the experience that staff, students and others are having? Does that lead to teachers giving of their best? Is everything working to help students become really engaged in learning? This data can then be used to inform a powerful conversation about why some aspects of school are less good than they might be for some people, and what can be done about it.
2. WHY SHOULD I BOTHER FILLING IN PROGRESS?
You will get a report showing how the way you rate your experience of school compares with other people like you – both in your school and more widely. You should find it interesting, and potentially useful. And your school is almost certainly doing PROGRESS because it wants to know how you and others experience the learning culture, so that it can make the school an even better place in which to teach, work and learn. If you don’t tell them how it is for you, they won’t know how to make it even better.
3. WHO ELSE GETS TO FILL IN PROGRESS?
The idea is that every member of the school community has the chance to describe their experience through PROGRESS. That’s all students, all staff, all parents and carers. Some schools do choose to use a sample of some groups; others are only interested in finding out about one group. We think schools get the best value out of PROGRESS if they capture everyone’s views, and leave nobody with the get-out of saying ‘they didn’t ask me for my views’.
4, IS IT REALLY CONFIDENTIAL IF I FILL IN MY NAME AND DATE OF BIRTH?
We wish we could find a way of logging people in that didn’t provoke this question. We really are interested in what was said, not who said it. Nobody in the school can read the comments you make. Your confidentiality is guaranteed and you can say exactly what you want, without any fear of comeback. However, the online system does need to be able to identify you. If a computer crashes, or you run out of time, you will want to come back to the survey and carry on where you left off. If you do the survey for a second time, you’d probably like being able to compare results. So we need a failsafe way of knowing when the person answering the survey really is you. GIving you a unique password would be a hassle. So we ask you for your name and date of birth. Just remember, your confidentially is GUARANTEED!
5. HOW DO I KNOW ANYTHING WILL HAPPEN IF I SPEND TIME FILLING IN PROGRESS?
Ask yourself why the school would be doing this if they had no intention to do something with the results. What have school leaders said about their reasons for setting up PROGRESS? What has the PROGRESS coordinator written in the introduction to the survey? If the language is unclear, ask for an explanation. The more people have committed themselves upfront, the more confident you can be that something really will happen.
6. WHERE DID THE PROGRESS QUESTIONS COME FROM?
Each element in PROGRESS has a different history. The questions on learning culture originally came from action research carried out in the London Borough of Newham in England to look at how schools created a culture where people could be open and honest about their experience. The questions about learning derived research into what made people into powerful learners. And the questions about personal effectiveness came from research by Dr Marilyn Tew into what young people thought they needed to do well in school. PROGRESS also incorporates elements of The Engagement Survey, developed by Learning Futures, an Innovation Unit project for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
7. HOW DO I KNOW THE DIMENSIONS ARE RELIABLE?
Each dimension in the survey has been carefully tested by academics either at the University of Bristol or the University of Sussex in England.. There is ongoing research to confirm the validity of these dimensions and to explore how they are inter-connected, that being carried out by Professor Robin Banerjee and Diego Carrasco Ogaz at Sussex.
8. WHO SEES THE RESULTS?
There is one person in each school who co-ordinates the results and has access to the findings for the whole school. He or she can dig into the data to construct reports on different groups in the school. They can send particular teachers or staff members reports relating to groups of students that they work with. And then can make publicly available a report on the school as a whole.
9. HOW MANY SCHOOLS HAVE DONE PROGRESS?
Between 2006 and 2010, Antidote worked with around 90 schools on developing a process for turning the data gathered through the PROGRESS Diagnostic into effective school improvement strategies. It was an analysis of the data from 30,000 students and 6000 staff members that was used to develop the new version of the PROGRESS Diagnostic that was launched in May 2013.
10. DOES THE WHOLE SCHOOL REALLY HAVE TO DO PROGRESS?
No. The school gets best value out of PROGRESS when the whole school does it – staff, students and parents. That is because it gets to know everyone’s experience, and everyone gets to know the school is interested in their experience. However, there are lots of other ways of using the data. So, if you are tutor who wants to know a class better, a year group leader who wants to explore the hunches they have about different groups of students, or a member of the support staff wanting data to discuss with an individual student, PROGRESS is there for you to use.
13. WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY ‘INVOLVING THE WHOLE SCHOOL IN MAKING IT GREAT’?
We mean using the data from the PROGRESS Diagnostic to engage the whole school community in a conversation about what the data is saying about what is strong and what is less strong in the school, and then identifying strategies for making things even better. Our experience is that giving everyone the opportunity to describe their experience, shape an account of what is happening and then come up with improvement ideas, leads to the strategies that emerge having collective buy-in and therefore being more likely to succeed.
14. WHY DO YOU MAKE THE RESULTS ON LEARNING CULTURE CONFIDENTIAL, THE OTHER STUDENT RESULTS TRACEABLE TO AN INDIVIDUAL?
We think it is really important that staff, students and parents can be completely honest and open about their experience of school; so the school cannot see reports that relate to any group smaller than five people. We also think that it is fantastically useful for the adults working with young people to see who they rate themselves as learners and more generally as effective people; so those adults get to see the results of the people they work with. Our experience is that they can inform really constructive conversations about how to ensure an individual has the best possibile opportunities to learn and to grow.
15. ARE THE RESULTS USEFUL FOR EXTERNAL INSPECTION e.g. OFSTED?
PROGRESS is a great way of showing that the school is listening to staff and students, that it is concerned for the wellbeing of students so that they can learn and achieve and the school is characterised by powerfully strategic but inclusive leadership.
AN EXAMPLE OF PROGRESS IN USE AND THE EXTENDED CONVERSATIONS INVOLVED
- Bowlby J (1969-80): “Attachment and Loss Trilogy” London: Hogarth Press
- Fielding M (2012): “Education as if people matter: John Macmurray, community and the struggle for democracy” Oxford Review of Education Vol. 38, No. 6, December 2012, pp. 675–692
- OECD (2011): “Equity and Quality in Education; Supporting disadvantaged students and schools”, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2011, www.oecd.org/edu/schools/equityandqualytyineducation-supportingdisadvantagedstudentsandschoools.htm
- Parks J (2013): “Detoxifying School Accountability. The case for multi-perspective inspection” Demos
- Smearden B (2002): “Students’ perceptions of membership in their high schools”, Sociology of Education, 75, 2002, 287-305
- Youell B (2006): “The Learning Relationship:Psychoanalytical thinking in education”, London; Karnac Books