The New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007) is a principle document for New Zealand schools that defines the context of a teaching and learning vision that is learner centered. It states, “Young people who will be confident, connected, actively involved lifelong learners” (MOE. p.8).
Upon examination of this vision, one is quickly grounded upon the significance that ‘learner confidence as actively involved lifelong learners’ is predicated by their ‘connectedness’. This sense of learner connectedness is therefore critical to achieve this vision. Any person who has a strong sense of connectedness, in the multiplicity of spheres of influence in their lives, is therefore better equipped to fulfil life potential, to navigate the challenges that life brings and to champion the same in others. It is the assertion of this research, that the central tenet of connectedness is relational connectedness. (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, 1995; Baumeister & Leary, 1995, 2005; Bowlby, 1998; Sroufe, Egeland & Kreutzer, 2005; Lavigne, Vallerand, & Crevier-Braud, 2011; Deci & Ryan, 2000). We are in essence relational beings.
The purpose of this review therefore, is to examine literature pertaining to ‘connectedness’ and by extension in the context of pedagogy, to ‘belonging’ for school aged children. The literature filter for this review are the relational dimensions of connectedness and belonging: namely the emotional and psychological, the physical, familial, and spiritual. The review will also filter for effective leadership practices that influence, enable, and embed a sense of belonging and connectedness that are systemic.
Although the author recognises the wealth of knowledge in Durie’s book, ‘Whaiora’ (1998), this review has been limited to chapter five titled, ‘Tirohanga Māori’ which discusses Māori Health Perspectives. His ‘Whare Tapa Whā’ model encapsulates a Māori paradigm of health and wellbeing that has become central not only to education policy and curricula, but also throughout all ministry departments and an integral source for this research. The need for belonging and connectedness is elegantly defined within the construct developed by the symbolism of a strong house, as a basis for wellbeing with the four dimensions being: taha tinana (physical side), taha wairua (spiritual side), taha whanau (family side), and taha hinengaro (mental/emotional side).
Allen and Bowles (2012), presents a construct of belonging with an analysis of various definitions and terminology as defined in other literature (Libby, 2004, 2007; Finn, 1993; Tajfel, 1972; Ryan & Patrick, 2001; Adler, 1939; Crandall, 1981; Goodenow, 1993; Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Maslow, 1970; Wingspread Declaration, 2004). St-Armand, Girard and Smith’s (2017) paper complimented and picked up on Allen and Bowles’s recommendation for further research on the factors that influence belonging. St-Armand et al. addresses the attributes, determinants and strategies for a sense of belonging within a school context.
John Hattie’s voluminous body of research in ‘Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analysis Relating to Achievement’, laid the foundation for the sequel ‘Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximising Impact on Learning’. In the context of this research, focus has been on Hattie’s recommendations of ‘what works best and what doesn’t’, and his eight ‘mind frames’ that recommends a way of thinking for teachers and leaders as a means to improve student learning. In Hattie’s words, and a concept the author aspires to, “Our job is to help teachers and leaders see learning through the eyes of kids and the great thing is when they do, teachers change” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013).
And lastly, the Masters in Secondary School Leadership (2017-2018) course provided a wealth of literature on effective leadership. It is the author’s aim to revisit key papers of interest, such as those written by Fullan, Leithwood et al. (2008), Bass (1990), and Harris & Spillane (2008). For this literature review, the author decided to include Leadership for the Schoolhouse by Thomas Sergiovanni (1996). Sergiovanni’s discussion on the importance of school culture, and his democratic and communitarian approach to leading change underpins his framework for belonging and connectedness.
Allen, K. A., & Bowles, T. (2012). Belonging as a Guiding Principle in the Education of Adolescents. Australian Journal of Education & Development Psychology. Vol 12, pp. 108-119. Retrieved 2 Sept. 2018, from:
Focus of the reading
Allen and Bowles provided an argument for the importance of belonging in the education of adolescents and the need for further research into factors that influence belonging. They analysed theoretical literature for definitions and terminology on the concept of ‘belonging’ in a school setting, and the benefits of belonging for an individual learner.
Allen and Bowles found a lack of cohesiveness between definitions for belonging in a school setting. They emphasised that previous research on belonging “has been unsystematic and diluted by disparities in definition and terminology” (p.109).
They found Libby’s (as cited in Allen & Bowles, p.109) description encapsulated the best definition, “feel close to, a part of, and happy at school; feel that teachers care about students and treat them fairly; get along with teachers and other students, and feel safe at school” (Libby, 2004 p.109).
Terminology that implied belonging also varied and ranged from terms such as; school climate, bonding, orientation, attachment or territory (p.109). However, there was consistency with influencing factors that came through the research, (Libby 2004, Wingspread Declaration 2004, Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention 2009) such as a positive teacher-student relationship, positive peers, active participation in curricular and extracurricular, feeling safe, and fair disciplinarian treatment.
A significant amount of research identified by Allen and Bowles (as cited in Allen & Bowles. p.109, p.110, p.111, p.113, p.114) has shown that belonging and connectedness has a significant correlation to wellbeing, attendance and academic performance.
Bronfenbrenner (as cited in Allen & Bowles, p.110) stated that a school environment provides the second most important set of relationships to a person’s social development.
Literature shows that a sense of belonging is important, but it is not valued enough by schools in general to be evidenced in school practice and policy (p.111, p.113).
Allen and Bowles gave a brief outline of the factors that influence belonging according to the Wingspread Declaration (WD) research (cited in Allen & Bowles, p.112). Strategies that increase likelihood for students to be connected to their school are: academic support, high standards and expectations, fair and consistent discipline procedures and policies, a trusting environment, highly capable and effective teachers, foster high whanau-expectations for education, and students to have at least one supportive adult in school.
The CDC (cited in Allen & Bowles, p.112) complimented the declaration and found four factors that foster belonging in a school: adult/staff support, belonging to a positive peer group, commitment to education and school environment.
Based on the four factors, the CDC then produced the following six strategies:
“1. Create decision-making processes that facilitate student, family, and community engagement; academic achievement; and staff empowerment;
2. Provide education and opportunities to enable families to be actively involved in their children’s academic and school life;
3. Provide students with the academic, emotional, and social skills necessary to be actively engaged in school;
4. Use effective classroom management and teaching methods to foster a positive learning environment;
5. Provide professional development and support for teachers and other school staff to enable them to meet the diverse cognitive, emotional, and social needs of children and adolescents and;
6. Create trusting and caring relationships that promote open communication among administrators, teachers, staff, students, families, and communities”.
Allen and Bowles has drawn from a breadth of literature research that supports the importance of understanding the complexities of belonging and connectedness for students in a school setting. An important point made by Allen and Bowles (p.114), was that further research is required to provide a clearer perspective on the detrimental factors that result from a lack of belonging. This supporting evidence would be beneficial for school leaders to manage change in organisational structure, to introduce new interventions, inform policy, implement recommended effective practices, pedagogy and provide best-practice professional development.
Allen and Bowles provided sound strategies sourced from the Wingspread declaration (2004) and the CDC for schools to consider, but highlighted that the WDC and the CDC research lacked methodological rigour that is derived from experimental research (p.113). Therefore, without peer-review publications that can substantiate the findings on factors that influence belonging, it would be worthy for schools to follow up any interventions with their own review inquiry.
St-Amand, J., Girard, S., & Smith, J. (2017). Sense of Belonging at School: Defining Attributes, Determinants, and Sustaining Strategies. IAFOR Journal of Education, 5(2). https://doi.org/10.22492/ije.5.2.05.
Retrieved 2 Sept. 2018
Focus of the reading
To present results from a literature inquiry on belonging that substantiates their theory that having a sense of belonging is essential, and it should have more prominence in school settings. St-Amand et al aimed to: “(a) to review the theoretical literature on school belonging with an emphasis on its defining attributes and main determinants, (b) to review the measurement instruments of school belonging, and (c) to identify various strategies that may enhance school belonging” (p.106).
It is the theory of many psychology researchers that it is an innate human need to have a sense of belonging and a relational connection with other people (Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Lavigne, Vallerand and Crevier-Braud, 2011; Hagerty et al, 1996; Anant, 1967; and Deci & Ryan, 2000. As cited in St-Amand et al, 2017, p.107).
A student’s sense of belonging is paramount for their active participation in learning and to achieve academic success (Allen, Kern, Vella-Brodick, & Waters, 2016; Eccles & Roser, 2009; Juvonen, 2006; Neel & Fuligni, 2013; Roeser, Midgley, & Urdan, 1996; Wehlage, Rutter, Smith, Lesko, & Fernandez, 1989 as cited in St-Amand et al, 2017, p.107).
Mucchielli (1980) found that belonging is a key contributor for a person’s psychological development and identity. This was also supported by Kestenberg and Kestenberg (1988), that belonging is a component of identity and relationships, and Maslow (1962) in his theory of self-actualization as individuals (as cited in St-Amand et al, 2017 p.108).
From an analysis of theoretical literature on definitions, St-Amand et al (p.109) identified four defining attributes as, positive emotions, positive social relations, involvement, and harmonization. Awareness of the attributes could assist teachers to adopt more strategic pedagogical approaches.
Positive social relationships between peers, have a direct positive impact on building and sustaining students’ sense of school belonging (Janosz et al, 1998; Juvonen, 2006).
Positive teacher-student relations, have a direct positive impact on students’ sense of school belonging (Janosz et al, 1998; Juvonen, 2006; Newman et al, 1992; Roeser et al., 1996; Wehlage et al, 1989).
Osterman (2010, as cited in St-Amand et al., p.113) stated that effective pedagogy alone, are not enough to develop students’ sense of belonging. Students also need interpersonal support that demonstrates genuine care.
St-Amand et al, Girard and Smith (2012) recommend six strategies to address school belonging with engagement and academic success, which take into account the four attributes and the teachers’ behaviours and instructional strategies.
- Professional development on active listening for teachers. This will assist teachers to have a better insight into students’ emotional well-being. (St-Amand et al., p.113) Gordan and Burch (2003, as cited in St-Amand et al., 2012) further offered a list of active listening strategies.
- Osterman (2010, as cited in St-Amand et al., 2012, p113) recommended that teachers openly show passion in their role of academic support with a variety of pedagogy that positively influences school belonging, engagement and learning. As well as their role as a personal supporter, by demonstrating genuine care and interest in the student as a whole person, not just a student.
- The inclusion of effective strategies that encourage positive social relations amongst peers such as cooperative learning and team work that ensures acceptance of each team member and participation by all students (St-Amand et al., p.114, and supported by the work of Osterman 2010).
- The implementation of social competence programs early in students’ education, which covers social emotional skills connected to peer acceptance and rejection (St-Amand et al., p115, and supported by the work of Kalvin, Bierman & Erath, 2015).
- Activities that grow harmonization that support interest group projects among peers.
- Engaging students in extra-curricular activities that provide opportunities for social relations outside the classroom (St-Amand et al., p.115, and supported by the work of Finn, 1989).
It is the author’s view that St-Amand et al have effectively met the aims of their paper with firstly, a theoretical literature review that supports their conclusion that, “enhancing students’ school belonging is of paramount importance for students’ academic success and engagement, and therefore must be taken into account in education programs, practice, and research” (St-Amand et al., 2017 p.115). However, it must be noted that the authors of the paper identified its own limitations by realising “a thorough examination of theoretical models is beyond the scope of this paper” (p.112). An authentic critical review process would include a systematic approach as recommended by Allen and Bowles (2012, p.108), which would include the examination of any opposing theories.
Secondly, St-Amand et al., identified three instruments for measuring a sense of belonging in a school. Their comparative study that includes the main characteristics, strengths and weaknesses of each instrument, provides important information that is beneficial for schools considering an inquiry on school belonging.
Thirdly, the paper offered six recommendations with examples that emerged from the four attributes identified. These recommendations can be easily aligned with the Ministry of Education’s vision for learning (MOE. p.8.) of developing confident, connected and actively involved learners, and therefore moulded to fit any school’s strategic plan that informs policy and practice.
Lastly, this paper like Allen and Bowles (2012) highlights the complexity of the concept of belonging and connectedness, and recommends the need for further research, both theoretical and empirical.
Ontario Ministry of Education (2013) ‘Know Thy Impact: Teaching, Learning and Leading. An interview with John Hattie’. In Conversation, Volume IV, Issue 2. Retrieved from: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/leadership/spring2013.pdf on 24/09/18
Focus of the Reading
The focus of the article is to gain a deeper understanding of Hattie’s eight ‘mind frames’ presented in his book, ‘Visible Learning for Teachers’ (2012). Visible learning is a synthesis of empirical research using meta-analysis to determine the influences on learning and what works best for student achievement.
This review is based on an interview with George Zegarac the Ontario Deputy Minister of Education for Canada at the time, and John Hattie.
- There is a strong correlation between a positive student-teacher relationship with teachers who demonstrated warmth, empathy, and ‘non-directivity’ and higher levels of learner participation, motivation and achievement (Cornelius-White’s 2010; as cited in Ontario., p.6).
- Effective feedback is one of the most important factors for effective learning especially in the environment of fear of being wrong. Feedback and learning flourish in these ‘not knowing’ environments. Teachers and leaders need change the mindset so feedback can be given without fear of negative repercussions (Ontario., p.1)
- A vital task for teachers and leaders is to listen. When genuine listening and dialogue happens, relationships are developed and movement in motivation and learning takes place for everyone. In the classroom, this is evident when there is less teacher talk and more learning talk by the students. For leaders, it is being a ‘learning leader’.
- In ‘Visible Learning for Teachers’ (2012), Hattie presented eight ‘mind frames’ based on his findings, that must underpin every action and decision in schools and systems:
“1: Teachers/leaders believe that their fundamental task is to evaluate the effect of their teaching on students’ learning and achievement.
2: Teachers/leaders believe that success and failure in student learning are about what they, as teachers or leaders, did or did not do … We are change agents!
3: Teachers/leaders want to talk more about the learning than the teaching.
4: Teachers/leaders see assessment as feedback about their impact.
5: Teachers/leaders engage in dialogue not monologue.
6: Teachers/leaders enjoy the challenge and never retreat to “doing their best.”
7: Teachers/leaders believe that it is their role to develop positive relationships in classroom/ staffrooms.
8: Teachers/leaders inform all about the language of learning”. (Ontario., p.2)
- Findings found a direct link of teachers’ high expectations of their students and the high likelihood it leads to students having a high expectation of themselves and achievement (Ontario., p3). Leaders can also inspire teachers to raise their expectations by making them see the positive impact they have on students’ learning (Ontario., p.12).
- Teachers need to focus more on the impact they are having on students and their learning, and less on what they have planned to achieve in a lesson (Ontario., p.4).
- The mindframes of senior leaders are critical, … they need to be learning leaders (Ontario., p.17).
- The main issues for senior leaders are the project management tasks that are taking away leaders’ time from their core business, which is effectively leading teaching and learning (Ontario., p.15)
Hattie’s findings on teaching and learning are summed up in the quote: “Visible teaching and learning occurs when learning is the explicit and transparent goal, when it is appropriately challenging, and when the teacher and the student both (in their various ways) seek to ascertain whether and to what degree the challenging goal is attained. Visible teaching and learning occurs when there is deliberate practice aimed at attaining mastery of the goal, when there is feedback given and sought, and when there are active, passionate, and engaging people (teacher, students, peers) participating in the act of learning” (Hattie, 2009., p.22).
One of the key findings in Visible Learning in terms of this project is the importance of the student-teacher relationship that acts as a pre-requisite lever to unlock the doors for his other recommendations of ‘what works best’ to be truly effective.
Therefore, it is the opinion of the author that a positive student-teacher relationship which results in increased student motivation and active participation must have a positive impact on the student’s sense of belonging and connectedness, and consequently, improved learning and achievement.
In terms of leadership, Hattie’s mindframes gear leaders to be change agents, (Fullan, 2011) that can lever alteration in mindsets and to be the ‘right driver’ to motivate, inspire and make an impact to achieving better measurable results for students (Ontario., p.16).
In essence, a leaders’ fundamental task, is to lead learning.
Sergiovanni, J., Thomas. (1996) Leadership for the Schoolhouse: How is it Different? Why is it Important? San Francisco. Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Focus of the Reading
Leadership for the Schoolhouse is about leadership that cultivates a community culture with a democratic process on how to gain the best outcomes for learning and student development, and why it is important.
Sergiovanni’s main argument is that schools are unique organisations and therefore the typical business leadership described: the pyramid theory, the railroad theory and the high performance theory, all provide valuable lessons for leaders but are not ideally suited for the varying distinctive school environments. Instead, he suggests that schools should develop theories and practices that reflect their school’s community values and moral purpose, instead of corporate strategies that reflect the hierarchical or the tangible incentives models.
Sergiovanni suggests that a “theory for the schoolhouse should provide decisions about school systems, curriculum and the classroom life that reflect constructivist teaching and learning principles” (p.27).
The schoolhouse theory is based on six criteria 1) aesthetically represented 2) moral obligations 3) logical rationality 4) constructivist principle on how we think, learn and lead 5) center for inquiry 6) self-managing goals, that primarily reflect the culture and community of the school (p.27).
Sergiovanni believes there is a correlation between caring and learning, therefore school leaders and teachers need to have a personal connection with their students and the community which comes from a positive relationship (p.68).
Continuity is important to develop a connection. Sergiovanni states it takes at least two to three years for a student develop a genuine connection is a school where they feel really settled, and feel ownership of their school environment (p.103).
Students in small community schools ideally with a roll of 240 – 300 tend to have better student-teacher relationships, perform better academically, have a stronger bond within the student body, and the school has less cases of violence and vandalism (p.110).
Sergiovanni recommends that schools adopt a constructivist teaching approach that creates an environment for a learner to be an active participant. An approach also more compatible for smaller schools (p.121).
The leadership framework is based on an open-door, civic virtue approach that opens the door to all stakeholders and how they fit in the school community. From this collaboration, shared values and beliefs are developed that underpin all leadership decisions for the school (p.177).
School leaders to implement systems and practices that support teachers to be reflective practitioners, to model learning and inquiry as key components of their pedagogy (p.91).
The concept of leadership is also shared as each person has a commitment to their responsibilities, as well as their obligation to ensure the school community is successful (p.184).
Schools are often the heart of communities, especially small communities. Therefore, Sergiovanni’s theory of community for schools should be given serious consideration.
He has provided a thought provoking perspective to school leadership that paints an ideal picture of democratic schooling and community-centered leadership at its best. He has challenged the effectiveness of theories and models that many schools and leaders currently operate from, and suggested concepts of constructivist teaching and shared leadership that not only equalises the power base but also the responsibility.
Some of the appealing aspects of this leadership approach are: changing the perspective of the schoolhouse to an inclusive communal learning center, instead of an education institution; and leading with a shared moral purpose that focuses on an authentic relationship and partnership with the community being the learners, parents, teachers, and the wider community.
However, like any worthwhile purpose, the journey will not be without challenges. Firstly, to change mindsets about leadership, in order to create a change in a culture that challenges existing theories and practice, and bond together all parties with a sense of ‘we’ instead of ‘I’, is no easy feat. It will require a principal with a determined vision, civic virtue and a moral purpose. A combination of qualities that reflects the leader’s character.
Reference: Durie, M. (1998) Whaiora Māori Health Development.Oxford University Press (2nd Edition). Chapter 5 pp. 66 – 80.
Country: Aotearoa, New Zealand
Focus of the reading
The focus of the reading is best summed up in Durie’s own words, “Māori health development is essentially about Māori defining their own priorities for health and then weaving a course to realise their collective aspirations” (p.1).
At the writing of the book ‘Whaiora’, Durie (1998) stated there is increasing evidence that substantiates a link between culture and health.
Socio-economic status is a determining factor for good health.
A Māori health conference (Hui Whakaoranga) held in 1984, recommended to health and education institutions to recognise that acknowledging ‘culture’ as a positive resource is beneficial to an individual’s well-being. Also, the inclusion of Māori spirituality in schools has merits for health education programmes (p.66).
Durie found that Māori today may appear Westernized, cultural ideologies still significantly influence attitudes and experiences (p.67). Especially pertaining to cultural protocols such as pōwhiri (a formal welcome) and dealing with the deceased.
The World Health Organisation in 1947 (as cited in Durie, 1998 p.68) concluded that ‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being …’.
The whare tapa whā (a four sided house) was noted as the one Māori perspective model, that was widely accepted by Māori (p.69). Taha wairua was generally mentioned by Māori as the most essential for health. Durie referred to it “as the capacity for faith and wider communion … to unseen and unspoken energies.” It also recognises the relationship with the te ao tūroa (environment) and ancestors (p.70).
Durie’s (1998) depiction of taha whānau are belonging, caring, sharing and whanaungatanga (relationships/connections) that addresses whānau wellbeing. In a review report to the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) on taha whānau, it stated “In essence, when there are healthy relationships in different contexts, the individual within the wider system is able to receive appropriate physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment? (Cherrington, 2009).
The MSD report also further identified that un-wellness within the whanau had a significant impact on the wellness of the children and adolescents that resulted in conduct issues including social peer groups and relationships within the school system.
In Te Ao Māori (Māori worldview), a sense of identity is birthed from whakapapa (family genealogy) and tribal connections, and land affiliations. As opposed to occupation and personal achievements. Interdependence is considered healthy, not independence.
Te taha hinengaro is about one’s mental well-being and the psychological processes to communicate, think and feel, and that an unwell mind, has repercussions on an individual’s sense of connection (p.?)
Te taha tinana was referred to by Durie as the capacity for personal growth and development (p.71). It was also about the physical environment, and the important standing of turangawaewae (place of identity/ belonging), that connected a person to land and people. The connection highlighted the entwined ties to the spiritual and whānau sides of the house.
Durie argued that physical illness or wellness often distracted from seeing the whole person holistically, especially in their sociological and ecological environment that has an impact on wellbeing (p. 68).
By 1990, Māori perspectives on health had dramatically influenced policy and practice of New Zealand health services. More importantly, Māori developed confidence to be actively involved in the health sector as a means to improve the wellness of all Māori people (p.78).
Chapter five highlights the significance between culture and wellbeing from a Māori holistic health perspective, that recognises the psychological influences connected to identity and belonging through taha whanau and taha wairua.
Other Māori health perspectives with similar themes, also were recognised, such as, te wheke (the octopus), ngā pou mana (the supports) and the psychiatric nursing nine-part framework. All models also saw health holistically recognising psychological or spiritual influences as a major determiner for overall wellbeing (p.74-77).
These other models also including ‘mauri’ (life force/soul) which is a valued tenet of Te Ao Māori which Durie excluded when he presented his ‘traditional perspective’ of Māori health being a ‘four sided concept symbolising the four basic tenets of life’ (Durie, 1985, p. 483). Therefore, the author wonders why the foundation (papa) was not included, considering the placing of the mauri was traditionally the first ritual to take place when building any house which signified the importance of the mauri presence.
As highlighted in the MSD report, the fact remains that Māori health overall has benefited with the awareness of the Māori perspective tenets of the whare tapa whā within the westernised health systems. The model has essentially informed policy and practice in many health agencies and government departments. The same can be done to aid schools and leaders to become more culturally aware, culturally sensitive and most importantly to practice culturally responsive leadership.
In conclusion, at the heart of the whare tapa whā, is the individual connected to the house by the interwoven concepts of integration, that binds one’s identity to their place in the house.
End of lit review conclusionHattie research (2009) supported the of Allen & Bowles (2012) and Libby (2007) that the teacher-student relationship is important and schools can make a significant difference to students’ experiences at school.
The strongest predictors of disorders were not socio-economic factors but related to the person’s immediate social environment (family, school and peers) (Durie, 2005). In order to reduce the rates of conduct disorder in Māori tamariki and rangatahi, he states that interventions need to focus on:
Integrated and multi-compartmental prevention programmes that could address school, family and social factors with culturally appropriate interventions. (Durie, 2005:5)
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