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school connectedness a literature review

School Connectedness: A Literature Review

Bill Ziegler

Cabrini College

EDG 501

definition s
  • School connectedness is an idea that refers to how students feel about attending school. School connectedness can also be referred to as: school bonding, school climate, teacher support, and student engagement (Blum, 2005).
  • Frick and Frick (2010) cite the terms: community building and cooperative welfare.
  • Stefkovich and Begley (2007) and Stefkovich and O’Brien (2004) examine what is in the best interest of the student in relation to connectedness .
measuring connectedness
Measuring Connectedness
  • Libbey (2004) actually establishes the criterion used and identifies the studies that were used to measure the concept.
  • She states that nine individual constructs related to school connectedness appear after reviewing the studies:
    • academic engagement
    • belonging
    • discipline/fairness
    • extracurricular activities
    • likes school
    • student voice
    • peer relations
    • safety and teacher support
why school connectedness is important
Why School Connectedness is Important
  • School-family-community partnerships are especially important for low-income children because the school is one of the most important institutions in urban areas which usually have a lack of businesses and community organizations (Bryan & Henry, 2008).
  • By high school, as many as 60 percent of all students in all school settings are chronically disengaged from school (Blum, 2005).
  • Students that disconnect themselves from school permanently will experience higher unemployment rates, reduced lifelong earnings and higher crime rates (Croninger & Lee, 2001).
  • Dropout rates are also higher among racial and ethnic minorities, low income families, single parent families and families where at least one of the parents failed to graduate from high school (Croninger & Lee, 2001).
  • As many as 20 percent of students surveyed give up on work when they experience difficulty, and 60 percent reported feel that teachers do not recognize them when they try their best (McNulty & Quaglia, 2007).
what can be done
What Can Be Done?
  • According to Blum (2005), three characteristics help students feel connected to school:
    • high academic standards with strong teacher support
    • a positive and respectful teacher/student environment
    • a physically and emotionally safe school environment
what else can be done
What else can be done?
  • McNulty and Quaglia (2007) recommend eight conditions that make a difference in school: belonging, heroes, sense of accomplishment, fun and excitement, curiosity and creativity, spirit of adventure, leadership and responsibility, and confidence to take action.
  • These qualities were established after a five year research initiative with 75 high schools in ten states.
at risk students
At Risk Students
  • “At risk” students are often in need of greater amounts of support and services and their experiences of low achievement can add to low self-esteem and affect their hopes about their futures”(Kerka, 2003).
increasing connectedness
Increasing Connectedness
  • Frick and Frick (2010) cite a study panel from the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine from 2004. In that study, the panel outlined six strategies that would increase connectedness.
  • These strategies are:
    • implementing high standards while providing academic support
    • establishing collectively agreed upon discipline policies
    • fostering trusting relationships with all stakeholders throughout the school community
    • hiring and supporting highly skilled teachers that connect all learners to the content
    • nurturing a high level of expectations for parents and families towards school performance
    • providing each student with the feeling that they feel supported by at least one adult in the school setting. (Frick and Frick, p. 124)
leadership perspective
Leadership Perspective
  • It is important for those in leadership positions to realize their own values and ethical beliefs and to be sensitive to the values of others (Stefkovich & Begley, 2007).
  • Unfortunately, many school personnel view impoverished children from a deficit perspective.
  • They believe that families of low-income children are not interested in education, assume the parents are dysfunctional and often blame the parents for their child’s academic challenges.
  • Their conversations contain negative assumptions that reveal little understanding of the psychological and social challenges of poverty, racial isolation, and prejudice (Bryan & Henry, 2008).
leadership ethics
Leadership Ethics
  • Ethics are primarily culturally derived and may not be applicable in situations that involve multicultural issues.
  • School leaders need to realize: how easy it is to ignore the voices of those who literally have the most to lose, it is incumbent upon school leaders to make ethical decisions that truly reflect the needs of the students and not their own adult self-interest (Stefkovich and Begley, p. 215).
a program that shows promise
A program that shows promise
  • One program that was found in the research that highlights the ideals of school connectedness is known as: Strength-Based Partnerships.
  • Strength-based partnerships are a collaboration of school counselors, school staff members, families and community members.
  • Strength-based partnerships take advantage of the assets found in schools, families and communities to promote positive student-teacher relationships, strengthen social support networks, nurture academic success and empower children (Bryan & Henry, 2008).
a culture of strengths
A culture of strengths
  • Can be cultivated when schools intentionally find ways to celebrate all children and their families.
    • Celebrations create feelings of validation and affirm a sense of belonging for students.
    • Staff members purposefully change their ideas about parents of struggling children from negatives to strengths.
    • Strong schools also tap into the assets of their communities. Using colleges, non-profit organizations, places of worship, police and fire departments, and schools of the arts, strength-based schools form partnerships to create programs and resources to support children and their families (Bryan & Henry, 2008).
gentlemen s ladies clubs
Gentlemen’s & Ladies Clubs
  • One of the strength-based programs that was highlighted by Bryan and Henry (2008) was the Gentlemen’s Clubs and Ladies Clubs.
  • These clubs were first established by Stephen Peters and have since been featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
  • In this program, students meet weekly in separate groups with teacher-mentors. Throughout the school year, community members come in to speak with the clubs and cover topics such as choices and consequences, self-worth, goal setting, attitude, and leadership.
  • The clubs also give the students opportunities to do things they have never had the ability to do, including attending college and professional athletic events and having dinner at an upscale restaurant.
  • The clubs finish out the year by participating in service projects, discussing future plans for school, and compiling their ultimate goals and dreams
in conclusion
In Conclusion…
  • The ideology behind school connectedness has plenty of positive aspects to support its approach to education. I believe connectedness identifies the root cause to failures in education. Once the student feels engaged all other impediments to education can be reduced, even eliminated. Ideology alone does not make a program. In the few programs that were found, only one program seemed to have legs that could be implemented elsewhere. Until more proof can be cemented, schools will likely continue to have a wait and see attitude towards connectedness.
  • Blum, R. (2005). A case for school connectedness. Educational Leadership, 62(7), 16-20.
  • Bryan, J., & Henry, L. (2008). Strengths-based partnerships: A school-family-community partnership approach to empowering students. Professional School Counseling, 12(2), 149-156.
  • Croninger, R.G., & Lee, V.E. (2001). Social capital and dropping out of high school: Benefits to at-risk students of teachers’ support and guidance. Teachers College Record, 103(4), 548-581.
  • Frick, J. E. & Frick, W.C. (2010). An ethic of connectedness: Enacting moral
  • school leadership through people and programs. Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, 5(2), 117-130.
  • Kerka, S., & ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, C. H. (2003). Alternatives for At-Risk and Out-of-School Youth. ERIC Digest. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
  • Libbey, H. P. (2004). Measuring student relationships to school: Attachment, bonding, connectedness, and engagement. Journal of School Health, 74(7), 274-283.
  • McNulty, R. J., & Quaglia, R. J. (2007). Rigor, relevance and relationships. School Administrator, 64(8), 18-24.
  • Noddings, N. (1988). An ethic of caring and its implications for instructional arrangements. American Journal of Education, 96(2), 215-230.
  • Starratt, R.J. (1994). Building an ethical school. London: Falmer Press.
  • Stefkovich, J., & Begley, P. T. (2007). Ethical school leadership. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 35(2), 205-224.
  • Stefkovich, J.A., & O'Brien, M. (2004). Best interests of the student: An ethical model. Journal of Educational Administration, 42(2), 197-214. 
  • Waters, J., Marzano, R. J., & McNulty, B. (2004). Leadership that sparks learning. Educational Leadership, 61(7), 48-51.
  • Wolk, S. (2007). Why go to school? Phi Delta Kappan, 88(9), 648-658.