In this article:
- Students who considered dropping out reported a lower sense of belonging than students who wanted to stay in post-secondary education
- First-generation students had a significantly lower sense of belonging than students whose parents had completed university
- Students with a lower sense of belonging reported lower levels of enjoyment in their studies and lower motivation than students with a high sense of belonging.
First-generation students and students with only one parent who has attended university may feel a lower sense of belonging, according to new research published in the Journal of further and higher education.
A sense of belonging — the feeling of security and the understanding that individuals can be themselves in their community — is critical to the likelihood that students will finish their studies, according to Iowa State University. When a person feels accepted by their community they exhibit better communication and more motivation, leading to better team dynamics. In an academic setting, students who feel like they belong are more likely to engage with their peers and their teachers in class settings, which creates more learning opportunities.
To understand the motivations for dropping out and how it is impacted by a sense of belonging, researchers collected survey question responses from 578 students related to them completing their degree program.
Researchers found that students with only one parent who had attended university had a similar sense of belonging as first-generation students — both of which were lower than students who had two parents who completed university. Having two parents who finished university had a small but significant effect, leading this cohort of students to report the highest sense of belonging.
Understanding what can influence belonging is important, as the survey also revealed that students with a lower sense of belonging were more likely to report they considered dropping out of their program. These students were also more likely to report lower levels of enjoyment in their studies and lower motivation than students with a high sense of belonging.
Boosting a sense of belonging
- Interpersonal relationships: Actively encouraging students to develop connections with their peers, professors and administrators. One way to do this is to improve the frequency of connection between these groups, which over time allows for developing deeper connections
- Discipline Identity: the university also says they encourage students to find connections with their chosen major, understanding their personal connections to the field and how this will positively impact their lives.
- Developing a growth mindset: Students are encouraged to look at how they can grow and improve, rather than subscribe to a fixed mindset (for example: I’m not good at science is a fixed mindset, versus I haven’t had much of an opportunity to focus on science, but may learn if I take classes and apply my knowledge.) This mindset helps students approach challenges they may face, rather than feel as if they are on the outside while their peers are born with innate knowledge.
Tutoring and mentorship programs can help students feel like they matter. With our help, program administrators reduce their workload by 52%, which has allowed 60% of our partners to expand current or add new student success programs. Our dedicated team can help inform you (and your student interns) on where to focus your marketing efforts and can even provide custom materials and strategies to ensure your program’s success.