Belongingness in Early Secondary School: Key Factors that Primary and Secondary Schools Need to Consider

PLOS ONE, Sep 2015

It is unknown if, and how, students redefine their sense of school belongingness after negotiating the transition to secondary school. The current study used longitudinal data from 266 students with, and without, disabilities who negotiated the transition from 52 primary schools to 152 secondary schools. The study presents the 13 most significant personal student and contextual factors associated with belongingness in the first year of secondary school. Student perception of school belongingness was found to be stable across the transition. No variability in school belongingness due to gender, disability or household-socio-economic status (SES) was noted. Primary school belongingness accounted for 22% of the variability in secondary school belongingness. Several personal student factors (competence, coping skills) and school factors (low-level classroom task-goal orientation), which influenced belongingness in primary school, continued to influence belongingness in secondary school. In secondary school, effort-goal orientation of the student and perception of their school’s tolerance to disability were each associated with perception of school belongingness. Family factors did not influence belongingness in secondary school. Findings of the current study highlight the need for primary schools to foster belongingness among their students at an early age, and transfer students’ belongingness profiles as part of the hand-over documentation. Most of the factors that influenced school belongingness before and after the transition to secondary are amenable to change.

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Belongingness in Early Secondary School: Key Factors that Primary and Secondary Schools Need to Consider

September Belongingness in Early Secondary School: Key Factors that Primary and Secondary Schools Need to Consider Sharmila Vaz 0 1 Marita Falkmer 0 1 Marina Ciccarelli 0 1 Anne Passmore 0 1 Richard Parsons 0 1 Melissa Black 0 1 Belinda Cuomo 0 1 Tele Tan 0 1 Torbjörn Falkmer 0 1 0 1 School of Occupational Therapy and Social Work, Curtin University , Perth, Western Australia , Australia , 2 School of Education and Communication, CHILD programme, Institution of Disability Research Jönköping University , Jönköping , Sweden , 3 School of Pharmacy, Curtin University , Perth, Western Australia , Australia , 4 Department of Mechanical Engineering, Curtin University , Perth, Western Australia , Australia , 5 Rehabilitation Medicine, Department of Medicine and Health Sciences (IMH), Faculty of Health Sciences, Linköping University & Pain and Rehabilitation Centre, UHL, County Council , Linköping , Sweden 1 Editor: Daimei Sasayama, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, JAPAN It is unknown if, and how, students redefine their sense of school belongingness after negotiating the transition to secondary school. The current study used longitudinal data from 266 students with, and without, disabilities who negotiated the transition from 52 primary schools to 152 secondary schools. The study presents the 13 most significant personal student and contextual factors associated with belongingness in the first year of secondary school. Student perception of school belongingness was found to be stable across the transition. No variability in school belongingness due to gender, disability or household-socio-economic status (SES) was noted. Primary school belongingness accounted for 22% of the variability in secondary school belongingness. Several personal student factors (competence, coping skills) and school factors (low-level classroom task-goal orientation), which influenced belongingness in primary school, continued to influence belongingness in secondary school. In secondary school, effort-goal orientation of the student and perception of their school's tolerance to disability were each associated with perception of school belongingness. Family factors did not influence belongingness in secondary school. Findings of the current study highlight the need for primary schools to foster belongingness among their students at an early age, and transfer students' belongingness profiles as part of the handover documentation. Most of the factors that influenced school belongingness before and after the transition to secondary are amenable to change. - Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. Introduction Aims and Objectives The current study builds on the previous work by Vaz et al., [46] and uses longitudinal data from the same student cohort of students who moved from primary to secondary school to address five objectives: Objective 1: determine whether students’ perceptions of school belongingness changes across the primary-secondary school transition, and if so, whether gender, disability and householdSES influence the change; Objective 2: determine whether factors identified by Vaz et al., [46] to be associated with belongingness in primary school, continue to be associated with belongingness in secondary school; Objective 3: after controlling for primary school belongingness, to determine whether factors identified by Vaz et al., [46] to be associated with belongingness in primary school, maintain their influence on belongingness in secondary school; Objective 4: after controlling for primary school belongingness, to determine whether there are additional factors; and Objective 5: in the event that additional factors that influence belongingness in secondary school are identified, to develop the best-fit model of belongingness in secondary school, after accounting for primary school belongingness. Methods Study design Participants Measurement tools Data Analyses Data were analysed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS Version 20) and Statistical Analysis System (SAS Version 9.2) software. Descriptive statistics were conducted to summarise the characteristics of the study sample. Chi-square tests of independence, paired sample t-tests and Kappa statistics were performed to identify significant changes in the categorical, continuous and binary/nominal scaled factors identified by Vaz et al., [46] across the transition. Student personal factors Perceived Competence Student personal factors Coping skills Motivational orientation for schooling Drawn from the Indicators of Social and Family Functioning Instrument Version-1 (ISAFF) [50] and Australian Bureau of Statistics surveys Yes/no for presence of disability and open ended question to detail primary diagnosis Self-Perception Profile for Adolescents [51]. Domains: academic competence; athletic competence; peer acceptance competence, physical appearance competence Short form of the Adolescent Coping Scale (ACS) [56]. 3 coping styles: nonproductive, problem solving, and reference to others. Inventory of School Motivation (ISM) [57, 58]. Domains: Task goals: (Mastery) task and effort motivation, Ego goals (Performance): competition and socialpower motivation, Social solidarity goals: affiliation and social concern motivation, Extrinsic goals praise and token reward. Instrument/ main source No of items or domains and meaning of total score Psychometric properties (if needed —addition references to substantiate psychometrics if available) Instrument Version-1 (ISAFF) [50] and Australian Bureau of Statistics surveys Cronbach’s α ranges from .78 to.90 in populations of students with learning disability and behavioural disorders [51]. Considerate convergent, discriminant, and construct validity substantiated in equivalent US and Australian samples [52–54]. Discriminant validity among secondary school typically developing students, students with learning disability and behavioural disorders has been substantiated previously [55]. Demographic profile of the sample to match the data to normative data Parent/ Guardian Measures student perceived competence in various domains of functioning. 5-domains Higher score = higher competence Measures the usage and helpfulness of coping strategies in general and specific situations. Assesses information on the goals students adopt for schooling 3-coping styles: Cronbach’s α ranges higher score = better from .50 (reference to coping style. others) to .66 (nonproductive coping). Test-retest reliabilities range from .44 to .84 (Mean r = .69) [56]. Validated in Australian samples [56]. 8-domains Higher score = higher related motivation Cronbach’s α ranges from .53 to.81. Adequate content, construct validity and test-reliability substantiated in crosscultural studies [58–62] Instrument/ main source Contextual factor: Family factors Expectations for schooling Mental health functioning Family demographics Perceived social support from one’s family Family functioning Parental involvement in education Personal expectations. Perception of teachers & parent/guardian expectations of schooling [63]. Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) [12, 64] Domains: emotional, conduct problems, hyperactivity/ inattention, and peer relationship Background: Structure, family income, time spent in paid employment, parents’ educational background. Multidimensional scale of perceived social support (MSPSS) [71, 72] Overall general functioning subscale of the McMaster family assessment device (FAD) [73, 74] Multidimensional assessment of family involvement [75]. Domains: Home-School Communication, HomeBased Involvement, School-Based Involvement Assesses student’s expectations for schooling and their perception of their parents’ and teacher’s expectation. Brief screener of children and adolescents’ behaviours, emotions and relationships. Obtains information about the family’s demographic factors Measures subjective perceptions of social support adequacy from the family Measures the perception of “how the family unit works together on essential tasks” Rates parental expectations for their child’s future success. Options ranged from primary level qualifications through to postgraduate degrees Assesses parental involvement in their child’s education Parent/ Guardian Parent/ Guardian No of items or domains and meaning of total score Overall mental health functioning score. Higher score = worse functioning (prosocial skills not included in total score) 1-domain. Higher score = higher support Parent/ Guardian 1-domain. Higher score = worse functioning Parent/ Guardian Parent/ Guardian 3-domains Higher score = greater parent involvement Cronbach’s α range from .84 to.91. Validity reported to be adequate [75]. Psychometric properties (if needed —addition references to substantiate psychometrics if available) Cronbach’s α ranges from .70-.80 [65]. Adequate discriminate and predictive validity [12, 64] Widely used in clinical populations [66] and with adolescents with intellectual disability [67, 68]. Adapted from [49, 50] [69] (ANZSCO) [70]. Cronbach’s α for the total scale is .91. Subscale α = .90 to .95. Test-retest reliability coefficient of .85. Adequate factorial & concurrent validity have been documented [71, 72]. Cronbach’s α for the total scale .86. 1- week, test-retest reliability = .71 Split-half coefficient = .83Good construct validity [73, 74] Developed by researcher [63] Contextual factor: School and classroom factors School climate and adequacy of resources Outcome: School belongingness Student’s perception of the classroom environment Parents’ perceptions of general invitations for involvement offered by their child’s school School belongingness Instrument/ main source No of items or domains and meaning of total score Type of school, services offered by school to address child’s needs. Information on the school sector, post code, number of students enrolled in each school, and organisational structure at each school was obtained from Department of Education and Training, WA records. The Middle School Classroom Environment Indicator (MSCEI) [78] Subscales: Student cohesiveness, Ease, Autonomy, TaskOrientation, and Involvement subscales Single items on bullying and cultural/disability tolerance [79–82] Parent Involvement Scale [85] Psychological Sense of School Membership (PSSM) Goodenew [3, 86], Overall total score on 18-items (with a fivepoint response format) Obtain demographic details of the school Measures parents’ perceptions of general invitations for involvement offered by their child’s school To measure the degree to which a student feels accepted and included within the school 7-domains. Higher score = better classroom environment Parent/ Guardian 1-domain. Higher score = higher involvement 1-domain. Higher score = greater belongingness Psychometric properties (if needed —addition references to substantiate psychometrics if available) Developed by researcher [76, 77]. Cronbach’s α is .92. Cronbach’s α ranges = .63 to.81. Overall factor structure, discriminate validity, and alpha reliability of MSCEI are robust [79–82]. Cronbach’s α = .78 and construct validity of this measure has been confirmed factor analysis [85]. Cronbach’s α = .80. Test-retest reliability = 0.78 (4-week interval) [87] and .56 and .60 for boys and girls (12-month interval) [88]. The total PSSM scores correlate positively with school success [3, 86], lower levels of depression [88], and lower levels of anxiety [17]. PSSM has been shown to discriminate between groups of students predicted to be different in terms of their sense of belonging in school [3]. Objective 1 Objectives 2, 3 and 5 Careful screening of data and key assumptions of multiple regression, which include normality, linearity, homoscedasticity of residuals, absence of multicollinearity, independence of errors, and absence of outliers in dependent and independent variables were tested prior to undertaking regression analyses. A hierarchical model building process as outlined by Vaz et al., was followed [46]. This involved a 3-step logic process. Step 1: Covariates of gender, disability, and household-SES and their interactions were added in step 1. Interaction terms were dropped from the model if they were found to be insignificant. Step 2: Covariates + Identification of student personal and contextual factors added in each block: The covariates were added in Step 1 and stepwise backwards elimination was undertaken to identify the significant factors (p < .05) within personal student, family, and school contexts that were associated with school belongingness. Step 3: Rating explanatory power of independent variables: the explanatory power of factors in blocks was assessed on the basis of how much each factor block added to the prediction of school belongingness, over and above that accounted for by the preceding block [89]. The order of entry of blocks into the regression models was as follows: Block 1: Covariates (gender, disability, and SES); Block 2: student personal factors; Block 3: family factors and Block 4: school factors. Objective 4 Linear regression models were run to identify additional factors associated with secondary school (T2) belongingness, not identified in Objectives 2 and 3. Results participants who continued to be involved in the study at T2 did not differ in profile from those who discontinued involvement (based on gender, health status, SES-level, and school belongingness scores). This similarity in profile between responders and non-responders at T2 suggests that conclusions based on these responders should be a fair representation of all initial T1 participants. Objective 1: Changes in school belongingness scores and key predictors across the transition Objective 2 As shown in Table 2, primary school (T1) factors explained 29.5% of the variability in secondary school (T2) belongingness. Vaz et al., [46] showed that variables at T1 explained 66.4% of the variance in belongingness at T1. This means that a number of factors other than those found at T1 must be related to belongingness at T2. Five T1 factors (two student and three contextual factors) continued to be associated with belongingness at T2. Covariates. No variability in belongingness at T2 due to gender, disability or householdSES, was found, as well as no interactions between the covariates. Student personal factors. Students who frequently resorted to non-productive coping strategies at T1 (Beta = -.15, p = .012) continued to report lower belongingness at T2. The pursuit of higher social affiliation goal orientations at T1 was beneficial to T2 belongingness (Beta = .14, p = .014). Family factors. Students whose parents reported less-than-average (low-quartile) schoolbased involvement at T1 continued to perceive low school belongingness at T2 (Beta = -.14, p = .011). Students with parents who had high scholastic expectations for them in primary school (T1) were more likely to belong in secondary school (T2) (Beta = .13, p = .025). School and classroom factors. Belonging to a classroom that provided high-level autonomy for students at T1 was beneficial to those students’ perceived school belongingness at T2 (Beta = .14, p = .032). Objective 3 I U B 7 1 5 5 7 5 2 5 3 0 9 6 .0 .2 .3 .0 .0 .1 .2 .0 00 .2 .3 .-0 4 - . 7 5 4 9 8 9 0 7 1 4 .72 .-0 .-0 .-4 .-1 .-0 .-0 .-4 .-0 .0 0 9 1 7 6 1 4 2 1 4 6 1 . .0 00 .-4 .-2 .-1 .00 .-4 .-0 .0 .0 .-4 7 1 2 - .- = = 6 9 3 2 1 4 1 8 1 2 2 8 6 7 0 9 2 1 3 1 2 3 3 2 .43 .0 .1 .-2 .-0 .0 .1 .-2 .-0 .1 ,R .33 .0 .1 .-2 .-0 .0 .1 .-2 .-0 .1 .2 .-2 7 4 4 . 2 R .869 .201 .461 .-641 .-21 .64 .851 .-872 .-373 .932 inge .729 .80 .901 .-551 .-091 .29 .891 .-502 .-003 .123 .742 .-662 ieng n n a a h h c c .0 .1 .-0 .-0 .0 .1 .-1 .-1 .1 .1 .-1 se se e n e o io R u u cn ra lv c ta o o a a o e iv h h t e s iv t p p t o S S e p e c E E c a p u m tt)sna lirs iilitsyba -oSwQ i-hgSQ ilccaao ilsycah -coowQ -rpodon filiitfaon n G D L H S P L N A o 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 xp in ho ho co ce the ipng n ye de 2 se se e n e o io it s huo uoh tcnap raaep lvso itcve ittvao irsve l-abo S S e p e c n o E E c a p u m U ch tt)sna lirs iliitysba -oSwQ i-hgSQ liccaao licsyah -coowQ r-dopon fiiiltfnoa sedaV -sowQ tn no G D L H S P L N A rT L re C 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 a ( T T T T T T T T T T T p I U B C L B 5 1 5 9 3 4 7 .6 .5 .1 .1 .-0 .1 .7 2 2 7 5 7 1 8 3 9 1 1 5 .2 .1 .2 .0 .0 .3 .2 .-1 .-0 .1 8 8 0 2 8 9 9 0 3 1 .0 .-0 .-0 .-4 .-1 .0 .0 .-4 .-0 .0 0 1 5 3 1 8 in 2 .9 .1 .2 .4 .2 .0 e .3 01 8 -2 - gn 6 a h c R 7 8 5 0 5 0 2 7 30 .43 in .6 .5 .8 .19 .-7 .4 .9 .4 . 3 1 - 3 3 .2 .0 .0 .-0 .-0 .1 .2 .-1 .-1 .1 F < sse ho ho co ce the ipng n 2C inngng shoue souhe tcnape raepna lvsoe itvceo iittvaoo R loe SE SE ce pa ep cu m lchoob lirs iilitsyab -oSwQ i-ghSQ ilccoaa ilyscha -coowQ -ronpod filiiftaon S G D L H S P L N A 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 T T T T T T T T T T 2 R 2 - - , 2 6 4 8 1 6 3 9 1 1 6 8 4 .2 .1 .2 .0 .0 .3 .2 .1 .-0 .1 .1 .0 7 9 1 2 1 8 9 1 3 1 9 0 .0 .-0 .00 .-4 .-2 .0 .0 .4 .-0 .0 .0 .2 - - issnnggen shouheo souhheo tccnapeo rcaepane ltsvohee iitvcepong iittvaono iitrvsyxeep li-sboaden 2CR llcboeoho lirs iliitysab -oSESwQ i-hgSESQ licccaaoe licsyaahp -copoewQ r-codpuon fiiiltfonam sedanVU -schoowQ tn S G D L H S P L N A rT L re 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 a T T T T T T T T T T T T p .0 .5 .3 .2 .0 .0 .0 .0 .0 .0 .8 0 7 6 2 4 6 5 2 2 1 1 .-0 .-0 .-0 .-3 .-2 .0 .0 .3 .0 .0 .1 - - - 6 5 1 2 3 4 0 2 2 6 8 .8 .6 .0 .2 .8 .0 .1 .7 .1 .6 .1 1 1 -1 -1 3 3 -2 -3 1 0 2 4 5 8 6 6 3 5 7 1 .1 .0 .0 .-0 .-0 .1 .1 .-1 .-1 .0 .0 4 5 6 0 6 6 4 7 0 3 6 .0 .0 .0 .1 .0 .0 .0 .0 .0 .0 .0 9 3 6 2 2 8 4 9 1 5 1 .0 .0 .0 .1 .1 .1 .1 .-1 .-0 .0 .0 - e c s e n n cn tee lem ito te p b ta e o c issnngneg lsheuohod lseuohohd tccenoappm rccnaaeepom ltrvseohep iitcvoepng iittvoano iitrsyxveepe loe SE SE ce pa ep cu m nU lchoob lirs iilitsyab -oSwQ i-ghSQ ilccoaa ilyscha -coowQ -ronpod filiiftaon sdaeV S G D L H S P L N A r T 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 2 T T T T T T T T T T T rd ie a 6 6 5 3 1 1 s .0 ad fifc teB .-0 .0 .-1 .1 .-0 .1 F < , n e 3 p ta o 3 , S C .5 51 8 = . d = te ]2 d . r 6 6 7 1 6 2 su 32 ize ts tdS rro .0 .0 .0 .0 .0 .0 jd ,81 a [ Objective 4 Fig 2. Model of Belongingness in Secondary School (T1), after accounting for Primary School (T1) Belongingness. Objective 5 1 2 4 0 1 5 9 .6 .5 .1 .2 .-0 .1 .9 2 1 5 2 1 7 6 4 3 1 1 9 4 .2 .1 .2 .0 .0 .3 .2 .0 .-0 .0 .3 2 6 0 4 3 7 2 4 7 2 5 4 .0 .-1 .-0 .-3 .-1 .1 .0 .-2 .-0 .0 1 1 9 2 7 5 9 1 0 0 1 7 3 6 .1 0 .0 .0 .9 .5 .0 .9 1 .0 = 2 1 8 2 4 8 1 3 5 7 1 .3 1 0 7 8 1 5 0 0 7 0 0 1 0 .0 .8 .1 .2 .3 .0 .0 .0 .0 .0 .3 .0 < 2 R 3 5 3 4 2 9 9 8 1 57 ro .6 1 .4 .1 .3 .2 .9 .1 .9 .7 .7 . 3 1 -1 - 4 2 -1 -2 6 f 4 sse ho ho co ce the ipng R n se se e n e o liongegn houSE houSE tccepan rppeaaa lsvepo itcvcue iittvaon lcbooh lirs iliitysab -oSwQ i-hgSQ ilccaao licsyah -coowQ r-dopno tffroom tt)sna S G D L H S P L N E n o 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 T T T T T T T T T T at T2 (Beta = .15, p < .001). Identifying one’s class as highly autonomous did not positively contribute to secondary school belongingness. No differences in secondary school belongingness due to gender, health status and SES-level were identified. Family factors were not associated with school belongingness at T2. Discussion 1. The significant personal student and school factors associated with belongingness in secondary school students; 4. Evidence that organisational and physical attributes of the school do not influence school belongingness, both in primary and secondary school, once background and personal student factors are considered; and 5. Evidence that in secondary school, family factors do not influence school belongingness, once personal student attributes and classroom factors are considered. Limitations light in this direction. Conclusions primary and secondary school students. MC AP RP TT BC TF. Final edits to journal: MB. References = 1. Brown SD , Alpert D , Lent RW , Hunt G , Brady T. Perceived social support among college students: Factor structure of the social support inventory . 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Sharmila Vaz, Marita Falkmer, Marina Ciccarelli, Anne Passmore, Richard Parsons, Melissa Black, Belinda Cuomo, Tele Tan, Torbjörn Falkmer. Belongingness in Early Secondary School: Key Factors that Primary and Secondary Schools Need to Consider, PLOS ONE, 2015, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136053