School Connectedness

School connectedness is recognized as students’ active engagement in the academic and social opportunities at their school based on their understanding that teachers and other adults at school care for them as individuals, as well as for their learning.  School connectedness contributes to students’ inner strengths, life-long resilience and positive mental health.

School connectedness is not a learning outcome of curricula per se. Rather, it is a condition fostered in a positive school environment, where teachers and other adults create opportunities for students to feel valued, supported, appreciated, involved, and engaged in the school setting.

Our understanding of the importance of school connectedness is continuing to evolve. Powerful engagement of students at school develops as students take responsibility for their own learning. Facilitating student ownership of learning coupled with positive relationships within the school community seem to work together to increase engagement and connectedness.

Further, the advantages of a positive school environment coupled with ownership of learning include greater well-being and happiness, an improved sense of belonging and better quality of life for students, and:

Students feeling connected is, in part, related to their ability to build and maintain positive relationships. BC curricula, such as Health and Career Education, Planning and Graduation Transitions, supports the social and emotional development of students in understanding, attaining and maintaining positive relationships with friends, peers, and adults.

  • can result in better levels of academic achievement;
  • can alter some of the more negative aspects of school life by reducing bullying and  harassment, injury, truancy, and absenteeism;
  • has the potential to diminish stereotyping and prejudice, fear, anxiety, depression and   loss of motivation;
  • can enhance feelings of well-being during childhood and provide sound foundations for positive health in later adolescence and adulthood; and
  • can encourage students to respect their surroundings.

School connectedness draws on the concept of Social inclusion represents the degree to which individuals feel connected to their communities. More broadly, it is about the strength within 
communities and organizations to ustain positive mental health. Connectedness within a community or organization can be measured by the extent to which 
people feel valued, supported, appreciated, involved and engaged. 

- Evidence Review: Mental Health Promotion,
BC Ministry of Health, May 2007

School Connectedness Table

School Connectedness
value:

What it means:

What students do:

How students feel:

What schools can do:

 

Significance

A sense of belonging, being valued, and connected at school

Work cooperatively, join in discussions, participate in clubs, activities and special projects; engage in classroom activities, decisions about school life; participate in leadership activities

I feel worthwhile and valued by my friends, classmates,  and teachers

Provide clear criteria for learning; acknowledge  achievement; model inclusivity; make student learning meaningful and relevant to students’ present and future lives

 

Competence

A sense of being able to meet the challenges of the school day and being recognized for one’s talents

Time on task, sharing attention, persevering when tasks are difficult, volunteering ideas and solutions, caring for others, staying in school

I have strengths and gifts that are recognized by myself and others; I use my strengths to meet my goals; I feel a sense of accomplishment and worth; I am responsible for my own learning

Celebrate and build on students’ strengths and help them compensate for any challenges or barriers to learning; incorporate assessment for learning strategies into classrooms; have optimism about each student’s future

 

Empowerment

A sense of being responsible and able to make one’s own decisions

Being aware of and empathetic to the needs of others; accepting loss or defeat, renewing efforts; dealing with bullying, intimidation and harassment

I can make responsible decisions based on my needs and the needs of others; I am responsible for making healthy lifestyle choices; I advocate for healthy choices for myself and others

Involve students in planning, problem solving, identifying issues and assessing curriculum in the classroom, knowing that students are more likely to succeed if they take ownership of their own learning

 

Relatedness

A sense of feeling included, connected, close to family, peers, and other significant individuals

Talking with others, showing sensitivity to others, giving and receiving support and encouragement; volunteering

I belong; I’m part of one or more groups  in my community: I feel included, encouraged and supported by others

Understand and teach that a positive relationship between student and teacher can foster school connectedness and why that is important; adults take responsibility for getting to know their students and developing positive and supportive relationships with students in a variety of school settings

Considerations for Educators fostering School Connectedness with Students 

  1. Understand the learning needs of all students, including their individual intellectual, emotional, and social needs
  2. Understand the developmental needs of students, including significance, competence, empowerment and relatedness (see glossary)
  3. Encourage active involvement of all students in learning activities
  4. Encourage healthy, respectful communication between students, teachers and other adults in the school
  5. Provide students consistent opportunities to engage in decision–making about a shared classroom learning environment
  6. Provide consistent opportunities for student leadership both within classrooms, and in the broader school community
  7. Model, encourage, and facilitate opportunities for students to show generosity, caring, and support for others in classroom
  8. Provide opportunities to connect with students within the class and outside of classroom time (e.g. mentoring)
  9. Address the benefits of school connectedness with students (what is it, how healthy relationships contribute to experiencing school connectedness, value of school connectedness to students)
  10. Explicitly link school connectedness to positive outcomes in achievement, life-long learning, resilience, and healthy living practices