05 SES 14, Effects of Schools, Teachers and Teacher Collaboration on At-risk Groups
As in many Western countries, the Netherlands is characterized by growing numbers of immigrants, which is reflected in diverse ethnic and socioeconomic (SES) school compositions. At the societal level, diversity may endanger feelings of inclusion, especially affecting marginalized groups. Schools are “mediating institutions”, where the economic and political structure of a society is reflected on a small-scale (Flanagan, Martinez, Cumsille & Ngomane, 2011). Therefore on a school level, feelings of inclusion may be reflected in students’ sense of school belonging (SSB). SSB refers to the degree to which students feel emotionally connected to and included in their school (Goodenow, 1993).
Previous studies on the relationship between school composition and SSB present inconclusive findings (Van Der Wildt, Van Avermaet & Van Houtte, 2017). For example, a study by Johnson, Crosnoe, and Elder (2001) showed a positive association between the number of same-ethnicity peers at school and pupils’ SSB. By contrast, Van Houtte and Stevens (2009) found no relationship between school ethnic diversity and SSB. In attempts to explain the relationship between school composition and SSB, studies have mainly focused on peer-relationships (e.g. Cheng & Klugman, 2010). Other influential actors, such as teachers, have received less attention in prior research explaining the association between school composition and SSB. In this study we will focus on two both teacher and classroom climate factors that may influence the relationship between school composition and SSB, which will be explained below.
Firstly, research has shown that perceived teacher support is an important determinant of students’ SSB (e.g. Hallinan, 2008). If students feel cared about by their teachers and are treated in fair manners, this positively influences students’ feelings of connectedness to school. In turn, research indicates that in schools with high proportions of students with a migrant background, students collectively perceive lower levels of teacher support (Agirdag, Van Houtte & Van Avermaet, 2012). No study, to our knowledge, has investigated the association between socioeconomic composition and teacher support. However, a study by Van Maele and Van Houtte (2011) indicated that teachers in low SES schools show reduced levels of trust in their students. If we assume that trust is a prerequisite for showing support, we may expect that students in low SES schools also feel less supported by their teachers.
A second factor which may be important in students’ SSB is the extent to which students experience an open classroom climate. An open classroom climate refers to a climate in which students have the freedom to express their (divergent) opinions, and discuss opposing perspectives in a respectful atmosphere (Torney-Purta, Lehmann, Oswald & Schulz, 2001). In past research it has been well-established that an open classroom climate fosters citizenship skills, such as civic knowledge and the intention to vote (for a review see Geboers, Geijsel, Admiraal, & Ten Dam, 2013). Rather than solely focusing on the association with civic outcomes, we argue that an open classroom climate may also impact students’ SSB, as the degree to which students’ feel that their voice is heard, may also foster their feelings of being accepted and included in the school community. A study by Campbell (2007) has shown that in diverse classes less political discussions take place. Other studies (e.g. Radstake & Leeman, 2010) additionally demonstrate that teachers in diverse classes experience difficulties in discussing controversial issues. In diverse classrooms this may induce a feeling of being disregarded and in its turn this may hamper students’ SSB. In sum, this study examinex whether there is an association between ethnic and socioeconomic school composition and SSB, and whether the possible association is mediated by perceived teacher support and open classroom climate.
Sample and procedure Participants were 5,297 9th grade students from 241 classes across 81 secondary schools in the Netherlands. Online questionnaires were administered to students during regular classes, under supervision of a trained test leader. The respondents had a mean age of 14.73 and the sample was equally divided by gender (51.5% girls). Measures To operationalise school ethnic composition we used two measures. First, we used the proportion of students with a migrant background. Individual students’ backgrounds were aggregated to the school level. The 81 schools covered a broad range of ethnic composition, from 1% to 97% migrant background. The mean of this measure was 25.1 (SD = 26). Secondly, we assessed the school ethnic diversity by using the Herfindahl index, which indicates the total number and share of different ethnic groups. An index of 0 represents no diversity, whereas an index of 1 represents total diversity. Our sample had an average diversity index of 0.33 (SD = 0.22). We used parental education level as an indicator of socioeconomic status (SES), based on the parent with the highest educational level or the parent for whom information was available (1 = primary school; 6 = university). The mean SES was 4.35 (SD = 1.42). For SES composition we calculated the mean SES on the school level; the mean was 4.22 (SD = 0.63). Perceived teacher support was measured with 9 items translated from a scale developed by Malecki & Elliott (1999). Respondents could answer on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = totally disagree; 5 = totally agree). A scale of the items was constructed by averaging the responses (M = 3.56 ; SD = 0.58; Cronbach’s alpha = .87). To measure perceived open classroom climate, we used a translated version of a scale developed for the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS) study (Torney-Purta, Lehmann, Oswald & Schulz, 2001). Respondents could answer on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = (almost) never; 5 = (almost) always). A scale of the items was constructed by averaging the responses (M = 3.35, SD = 0.66; Cronbach’s alpha = .80). Students’ sense of school belonging was measured with a five-item scale based on Goodenow (1993) and Agirdag, Jordens & Van Houtte (2014). Respondents could answer on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = totally disagree; 5 = totally agree). Scores on the five items were averaged to a scale (M = 3.62, SD = 0.74; Cronbach’s alpha = .79).
Due to the nested structure of the data (students within classes, classes within schools) a multilevel approach is needed for our analysis. Currently we are in the phase of exploration of the data and comparing groups on several measures. A first inspection of the data at the individual student level shows that students with a migrant background have a mean score of 3.45 (SD = 0.78) on SSB, whereas students with a native background have a mean score of 3.67 (SD = 0.77). A t-test revealed that the mean difference for native students and students with an immigrant background is significant (t = 8.92, p < .001), indicating that students with an immigrant background have a lower sense of school belonging than native students. Additionally a One-Way ANOVA showed that the effect of SES on students’ SSB was significant, F (5, 4305) = 6.03, p = .000. Similar mean differences between the groups (i.e. native vs. migrant background and the six SES groups) were found for perceived teacher support and open classroom climate (not reported here due to space limitations). Although this first exploration represents only a minor step in the analysis, we may cautiously conclude that the data exploration shows that there may be some associations between our measures at the individual student level. However, at this stage the analysis is too premature to make any other claims. In the next phase the data will be analysed using a multilevel approach.
Agirdag, O., Jordens, K., & Van Houtte, M. (2014). Speaking Turkish in Belgian Schools: Teacher Beliefs versus Effective Consequences. Bilig, 70(3): 7-28. Agirdag O., Van Houtte, M. & Van Avermaet, P. (2012). Why does the ethnic and socioeconomic composition of schools influence math achievement? The role of sense of futility and futility culture. European Sociological Review, 28(3), 366-378. Campbell, David E. 2007. Sticking Together: Classroom Diver sity and Civic Education. American Politics Research, 35(1): 57-78. Cheng, S. & Klugman, J. (2010). School Racial Composition and Biracial Adolescents’ School Attachment. The Sociological Quarterly, 51, 150–178. Flanagan, C. A., Martinez, M. L., Cumsille, P., & Ngomane, T. (2011). Youth civic development: Theorizing a domain with evidence from different cultural contexts. In C. A. Flanagan & B. D. Christens (Eds.), Youth civic development: Work at the cutting edge. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 134, 95–109. Geboers, E., Geijsel, F., Admiraal, W., & Ten Dam, G. (2013). Review of the effects of citizenship education. Educational Research Review, 9, 158-173. Goodenow, C. (1993). The psychological sense of school membership among adolescents: Scale development and educational correlates. Psychology in the Schools, 30(1), 79-90. Hallinan, M. T. (2008). Teacher influences on students’ attachment to school. Sociology of Education, 81, 271–283. Johnson, M., Crosnoe, R., & Elder, G. (2001). Students’ attachment and academic engagement: The role of ethnicity. Sociology of Education, 74, 318–340. Malecki, C. K., & Elliott, S. N. (1999). Adolescents’ ratings of perceived social support and its importance: Validation of the Student Social Support Scale. Psychology in the Schools, 36, 473–483. Radstake, H. & Leeman, Y. (2010). Guiding discussions in the class about diversity. Intercultural Education, 21(5): 429–442. Torney-Purta, J., Lehmann, R., Oswald, H., & Schulz, W. (2001). Citizenship and education in twenty-eight countries. Amsterdam: International Association for the Evaluation of Education Achievement. Van Der Wildt, A., Van Avermaet, P. & Van Houtte, M. (2017) Multilingual school population: ensuring school belonging by tolerating multilingualism. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 20:7, 868-882. Van Houtte, M., & Stevens, P. A. J. (2009) School ethnic composition and students’ integration outside and inside schools in Belgium. Sociology of Education, 82(3), 217-239. Van Maele, D., & Van Houtte, M. (2011). The quality of school life: Teacher student trust relationships and the organizational school context. Social Indicators Research, 100(1), 85-100.
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