Students' Need for Belonging in the School Community
Defining sense of community as a feeling of belongingness within a group, this article reviews research about students' sense of acceptance within the school community to address three questions: Is this experience of belongingness important in an educational setting? Do students currently experience school as a community? And how do schools influence students' sense of community? Conceptually, the review reflects a social cognitive perspective on motivation. This theoretical framework maintains that individuals have psychological needs, that satisfaction of these needs affects perception and behavior, and that characteristics of the social context influence how well these needs are met. The concern here is how schools, as social organizations, address what is defined as a basic psychological need, the need to experience belongingness. The findings suggest that students' experience of acceptance influences multiple dimensions of their behavior but that schools adopt organizational practices that neglect and may actually undermine students' experience of membership in a supportive community.