Exploring Undergraduate Students’ Perceived Sense of Belonging: Making Orange the New Black

  • Petrus Johannes Loock
  • Cornelius Fourie


The University of Johannesburg annually administers an Undergraduate Student Experience Survey to elicit important strategic information and feedback from its students. The questionnaire and collection methods have evolved over the years; however the core elements were kept the same. During that time, the composition of the diverse student body has also changed. Analyses of the student responses disclosed new factors that have gained importance in the minds of the students. An inquiry (2014) into one of the most influential indicators, namely, ‘student belonging’ unveiled interesting new connections with regard to the UJ student reality. Multiple CHAID (tree) analyses were administered on each subsection of the questionnaire in an attempt to identify items that significantly predict a sense of belonging. The results revealed practical suggestions to improve student support focused on cultivating the UJ students’ perceived sense of belonging.


Student belonging Sense of belonging Student experience CHAID analyses Indicators 


  1. Ainsworth, M. D. (1989). Attachments beyond infancy. The American Psychologist, 44(4), 709–716.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Altbach, P. G., Reisberg, L., & Rumbley, L. E. (2009). Trends in global higher education: Tracking an academic revolution. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.Google Scholar
  3. Anderman, L. H., & Freeman, T. M. (2004). Students’ sense of belonging in school. In P. R. Pintrich & M. I. Maehr (Eds.), Motivating students, improving schools: Advances in motivation and achievement (pp. 22–63). Amsterdam: Elsivier.Google Scholar
  4. Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497–529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brown, S. K., & Burdsal, C. A. (2012). An exploration of sense of community and student success using the national survey of student engagement. The Journal of General Education, 61(4), 433–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Collier, P., & Morgan, D. (2008). Is that paper really due today?: Differences in first generation and traditional college students ‘ understandings of faculty expectations’. Higher Education, 55(4), 425–446.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Faircloth, B. S., & Hamm, J. V. (2005). Sense of belonging among high school students representing ethnic groups. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 34(4), 293–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Freeman, T. M., Anderman, L., & Jensen, J. M. (2007). Sense of belonging in college freshman at the classroom and campus levels. The Journal of Experimental Education, 75(3), 203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Goodenow, C. (1993). The psychological sense of school membership among adolescents: Scale development and educational correlates. Psychology in the Schools, 30, 70–90. 30, 70-90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hagerty, B. M., & Patusky, K. (1995). Developing a measure of sense of belonging. Nursing Research, 44(1), 9–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hausmann, L. M., Schofield, J. W., & Woods, R. (2007). Sense of belonging as a predictor of intentions to persist among African American and White first-year college students. Research in Higher Education, 48, 803–839.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Heisserer, D., & Parette, P. (2002). Advising at-risk students in college and university settings. College Student Joumal, 36(1), 1–12.Google Scholar
  13. Hertel, J. B. (2002). College student generational status: Similarities, differences, and factors in college adjustment. Psychological Record, 52, 3–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hoffman, M., Richmond, J., Morrow, J., & Salomone, K. (2003). Investigating ‘sense of belonging’ in first-year college students. Journal of College Student Retention, 4, 227–256.Google Scholar
  15. Hurtado, S., & Carter, D. F. (1997). Effects of college transition and perceptions of the campus racial climate on Latino college students’ sense of belonging. Sociology of Education, 70, 324–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. IBM Corporation 1989, 2011. (2011). IBM SPSS decision trees 20. Retrieved January 2, 2016, from The SPSS Statistics: Guide to data analysis, SPSS Statistics:
  17. Jaasmah, M., & Koper, R. (1999). The relationship of student-faculty out-of-class communication to instructor immediacy and trust and to student motivation. Communication Education, 48(1), 41–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Komarraju, M., Musulkin, S., & Bhattaeharaya, G. (2010). Role of student faculty interactions in developing college students’ academic self-concept, motivation and achievement. Journal of College Student Development, 51(3), 332–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J. H., & Whitt, E. J. (2004). Student success in college: Creating conditions that matter. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  20. Lambert, N. M., Stillman, T. F., Hicks, J. A., Kamble, S., Baumeister, R., & Fincham, F. D. (2013). To belong is to matter: Sense of belonging enhances meaning in life. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(11), 1418–1427.Google Scholar
  21. Lindstrom, M. (2008). Social capital and health-related behaviors. In I. Kawachi, S. V. Subramanian, & D. Kim (Eds.), Social capital and health (pp. 215–238). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Locks, A. M., Hurtado, S., & Bowman, N. A. (2008). Extending notions of campus climate and diversity to students’ transition to college. The Review of Higher Education, 31, 257–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Maestas, R., Vaquera, G. S., & Muñoz Zehr, L. (2008). Factors impacting sense of belonging at a Hispanic-serving institution. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 6, 237–256. 6, 237-256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Maslow, A. H. (1968). Toward a psychology of being. New York: D. Van Nostrand Company.Google Scholar
  25. Meeuwisse, M., Severiens, S. E., & Born, M. P. (2010). Learning environment, interaction, sense of belonging and study success in ethnically diverse student groups. Research in Higher Education, 51(6), 528–545.Google Scholar
  26. Michael, J., & Gordon, S. (2004). Data mining technique for marketing, sales and customer support (2nd ed.). New York: Wiley Computer Publishing.Google Scholar
  27. O’Keefe, P. (2013). A sense of belonging: Improving student retention. College Student Journal, 47(4).Google Scholar
  28. Osterman, K. F. (2000). Students’ need for belonging in the school community. Review of Educational Research, 70(3), 323–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pelletier, D. L. (1994). The relationship between child anthropometry and mortality in developing countries: Implications for policy, programs and future research. The Journal of Nutrition, 124, 2047–2081.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pittman, L. D., & Richmond, A. (2007). Academic and psychological functioning in late adolescence: The importance of school belonging. The Journal of Experimental Education, 75(4), 270–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ritschard, G. (2010). CHAID and earlier supervised tree (pp. 1–30). Switzerland: Dept of Econometrics, University of Geneva.Google Scholar
  32. Ross, N. (2002). Community belonging and health. Health Reports, 13(3), 33–39.Google Scholar
  33. Seligman, M. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55, 5–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Siyengo, N. (2015, December). The educational and psychosocial experiences of first generation students. Retrieved from Stellenbosch University Library and Information Services.
  35. SmartDrill. (2010). A basic introduction to CHAID. Retrieved 12 10, 2015, from Smartdrill data mining: Data driven decision support:
  36. Steyn, M. G., Harris, T., & Hartell, C. G. (2014). Institutional factors that affect black South African students’ perceptions of early childhood teacher education. South African Journal of Education, 34(3).Google Scholar
  37. Thomas, E. H., & Galambos, N. (2004). What satisfies students? Mining student opinion data with regression and decision tree analysis. Research in Higher Education. Research in Higher Education, 45, 251–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  39. Tovar, E., & Simon, M. A. (2010). Factorial structure and invariance analysis of the sense of belonging scales. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 43(3), 199–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ture, M., Kurt, I., Kurum, A. T., & Ozdamaar, K. (2005). Comparing classification techniques for predicting essential hypertension. Expert Systems with Applications, 29, 583.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Vandenbroeck, M. (1999). The view of the yeti: Bringing up children in the spirit of self-awareness and kindredship. The Hague: Bernard van Leer Foundation.Google Scholar
  42. Volkwein, J. F., & Strauss, L. C. (2004). Predictors of student commitment at two year and four- year institutions. The Journal of Higher Education, 75(2), 203–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2007). A question of belonging: Race, social fit, and achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 82–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Zepke, N., & Leach, L. (2005). Integration and adaptation: Approaches to the student retention and achievement puzzle. Active Learning in Higher Education, 6(1), 46–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations