17 May 2017

Why ‘belonging’ matters

A sense of belonging is a basic human need – students with a sense of belonging are more motivated to participate actively in the life of the classroom and achieve academic success. 

Belonging is the feeling of being valued, needed, accepted, and meaningfully connected to a social network. Feeling connected and belonging provides:

  • purpose, self-worth and social control
  • validation of beliefs and values
  • group affiliation
  • feelings of comfort, safety and that their efforts are worthwhile
  • contributes to positive mental health
  • protects against feelings of isolation, anxiety or depression
  • reduces the risks of alienation.

Some students don’t feel like they belong at school, perhaps because they don’t feel valued socially or academically. Without a sense of belonging, the outcome may be:

  • feeling cut off, anxious, isolated and unsupported
  • avoidance of interactions with others
  • feeling less able to weather tough times
  • not wanting to do things that might actually make them feel good.

Ways to support students sense of belonging

The ideal situation is that every student has the sense that they are valued in some way, and that they genuinely have a place in the school community. You can help influence the way a student feels at school by:

  • explicitly reinforcing that each person is welcome and valued in the school community, that they have a place
  • actively seeking out and highlighting things of value in individual students, however small - whether it’s the student’s ability to hold down a part-time job or their devotion to a particular hobby or interest
  • encourage belonging within other social groups in the school
  • encourage breadth of friendship circles
  • academically successful students gain validation from their achievements in school work
  • strive to maintain a continuous balance between high but achievable expectations, and students having the assurance that failure will not mean withdrawal of acceptance
  • encourage attendance of school activities and cheering of fellow students
  • promote attendance or starting of a club, sporting or special interest group.

For more information and resources see the MindMatters Module 1.4 Relationships and Belonging.


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