This explanatory sequential mixed methods study examined how belonging perceptions, academic motivation, and engagement might mediate the relationship between academic contextual characteristics and achievement using structural equation modeling and qualitative follow-up interviews with college students from a large, Midwestern university. In the first, quantitative phase, two hypothesized models of student belonging and motivation were tested. In line with the Self-System Model of Classroom Support for Motivation (Connell and Wellborn, in: Gunnar and Sroufe (eds.) Minnesota Symposium on Child Psychology: Self-processes and Development, 1991), Model 1 hypothesized student belonging and motivation to be directly predicted by supportive classroom environment perceptions, and to directly predict engagement, which was hypothesized to predict achievement. Model 2 elaborated on the traditional self-system model and hypothesized student belonging to mediate the relationship between supportive classroom environment perceptions and student motivation. Quantitative findings revealed support for Model 2. Supportive classroom environment perceptions predicted students’ belonging beliefs, which in turn predicted students’ motivation, engagement, and achievement in the course. The second, follow-up qualitative phase suggested ways in which contextual characteristics might influence student belonging beliefs in the classroom. Taken together, the quantitative and qualitative data illustrate the influential role of classroom contextual characteristics on student outcomes, as well as the role student belonging plays in college student motivation and success.
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Qualitative phase interview protocol
Describe your experience in this class.
Probe: Was it good? Bad? So-So? Why?
On a scale from 0 – 100, how much would you say that you fit in and belong in this class? Why?
Follow-up: Did you know the instructor or any of your classmates before this class?
Follow-up: In what ways do you feel that you do or don’t fit in?
What does it mean “to belong” in the classroom?
Probe: Define belonging in the classroom.
Give a specific example of a time in this class when you felt like you did or didn’t belong.
Describe a specific example of your experiences with your peers in this class.
Follow-up: Based on those experiences, do you feel accepted/supported by your peers? Why do you feel this way?
Probe: In what ways do you feel that you are or are not supported?
Describe your experiences with your instructor in this class.
Follow-up: Do you feel supported by your instructor? Why do you feel this way?
Probe: In what ways do you feel that you are/are not supported?
Follow-up: What instructional practices are used that are supportive?
Follow-up: What instructional practices are used that are not particularly supportive?
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Zumbrunn, S., McKim, C., Buhs, E. et al. Support, belonging, motivation, and engagement in the college classroom: a mixed method study. Instr Sci 42, 661–684 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11251-014-9310-0
- Contextual characteristics
- Student achievement