Over the past two decades, the scientific community has made considerable progress understanding growth mindset (the belief that intelligence can be developed) and relevance and purpose (the belief that one’s schoolwork matters) as levers for improving students’ motivation and psychological experience of school. But before students grapple with questions like, “can I get better at this subject?” or, “what is the value of this material?” they face an even more foundational question about their classroom and school: “Am I someone who belongs in this environment?”
Students who are confident that they belong and believe they are valued and respected by their teachers and peers can engage fully in learning. They are more open to critical feedback on their schoolwork, take greater advantage of learning opportunities, build important relationships, have fewer discipline citations, and generally have more positive attitudes about their classwork and teachers. In turn, they are more likely to persevere in the face of challenges and do better in school.
To help advance understanding of the vital role of belonging in education, the Student Experience Research Network made belonging the theme of its third annual Mindset Science Funder Briefing on November 27th at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle.
The Student Experience Research Network Funder Briefings are intended to bring together diverse members of the education community who are studying and applying core ideas from the science of mindsets and motivation with the philanthropic community. This year, nearly 100 attendees explored the field of belonging in both K-12 and postsecondary education contexts, with a special focus on effective partnerships between practitioners and researchers. The philanthropic community heard about the latest research, implementation, and results of belonging initiatives first-hand from scientists and practitioners within and beyond the Student Experience Research Network. Practitioners and researchers had an opportunity to discuss their work with other attendees undertaking or funding similar work.
While one event cannot capture the breadth and depth of work being done to support student belonging in studies and schools across the country, the convening took an important step in elevating the science of belonging among leading organizations in the sector. At the end of the day, 100% of attendees reported that belonging is foundational to students’ success in school and is shaped by the interaction of students’ identity and context.
In the coming months, the Student Experience Research Network will continue to highlight belonging as a critical learning mindset, particularly as part of efforts to achieve equity in education.
We will highlight key conversations and themes from the recent convening and share a summary of the field-level priorities for belonging research and practice that attendees surfaced in their questions, remarks, and in a culminating interactive activity. All of these resources will be available on the Student Experience Research Network website.