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Understanding University Belongingness: Domestic and International Student Perspectives

AERA Presentation 2015

Zachary Elison

on 19 April 2015

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Transcript of Understanding University Belongingness: Domestic and International Student Perspectives

Understanding University Belongingness: Domestic and International Student Perspectives
What is Belonging?
Fundamental need to belong (Maslow, 1970)
Consistent interaction with persistent caring (Baumeister & Leary, 1995)
In the university environment, it goes beyond individual relationships and also includes feeling connected to institutional community (Pittman & Richmond, 2008)
Students who feel a sense of belonging:
Adjust to academic life
Experience lower levels of depressive symptoms
Lower attrition rates
Better social adjustment
Increased academic motivation
(Goodenow, 1993; Tao et. al., 2000)

The Problem
Ethnic and racial minorities report a weaker sense of belonging than White/Caucasian students (Johnson et al., 2007)
Currently there are no well-established and validated scales for measuring university belonging
Researchers studying university belonging have adapted measures developed for and validated on a K-12 school population (e.g., Freeman, Anderman, & Jensen, 2007; Pittman & Richmond, 2008)
Need to operationalize the construct of university belongingness

Christopher Slaten, Ph.D.
Zachary Elison, M.S.Ed
Mike Yough, Ph.D.
Dept. of Educational Studies
Purdue University

Summary of Domains, Categories, and Frequencies


Interpersonal Interactions
Valued Group Involvement Typical (8)
Meaningful Personal Relationships Typical (7)
Opportunities for Bonding Typical (6)

Experiences of Acculturation
Acculturative Stress General (9)
Discrimination Typical (7)
Acculturative Changes Typical (6)

Campus Environment
Classroom Engagement General (9)
Campus Facilities Typical (8)
University Resources Typical (8)
University Culture Typical (6)

Emphasis on Academic Achievement
Social Engagement Typical (8)
Peers In Pursuit of an Identified Goal Typical (8)

Intrapersonal Factors
Social Self-Efficacy Typical (7)
Personal Growth Typical (7)

General = at least 9 respondents; Typical = 5 to 8 respondents; Variant = 2 to 4 respondents. N=11
Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR; Hill , 2012)
Structured approach comprised of four steps:
Domains, Core Ideas, Categories, and Frequencies
Emphasizes group consensus amongst a research team
Utilized an external auditor to ensure trustworthiness
Researchers discuss biases and expectations of the phenomenon (i.e., self-reflexivity, trustworthiness)
Interview protocol developed by research team and based on existing literature
Interviews were face-to-face, lasting approximately 45 to 60 minutes

Summary of Domains, Categories, and Frequencies

Domain/Category Frequency

Valued Group Involvement General (11)
Being affiliated /member of an organization(s) on campus General (11)
Group work that was identified as having meaning Typical (8)
Feeling valued within one’s major Typical (5)

Meaningful Personal Relationships General (11)
Having similar experiences as others General (11)
Having healthy relationships with faculty/staff Typical (9)
Building strong friendships with peers Typical (8)
Having family members that are alumni Typical (6)

Environmental Factors General (11)
Global sense of university culture and/or pride General (11)
Influence of living community (i.e., dorms, apartment) General (10)
Classroom environment Typical (9)
The importance of diversity and inclusivity Typical (7)

Intrapersonal Factors General (11)
Intrinsic motivation to seek out relationships with others General (10)
Opportunities for self-awareness and growth General (10)
Balancing Social and Academic Lives Typical (6)

Note: General = applicable to all the cases or all but one; Typical = applicable to at least half of the cases

Study 1: Domestic University Students
Stratified random sample of undergraduate students at a large Midwestern university
N =11 (5 female, 6 male)
First-year: 2; Second-year: 5; Third-year: 3; Fourth-year: 1
Research Team
Two faculty members
Three doctoral students
Three masters-level graduate students
One undergraduate student
Study 2: Asian International University Students
Country of Origin: China (8), Malaysia (2), Vietnam (1)
N =11 (5 female, 6 male)
First year: 2; Second year: 3; Third year: 3 Fourth year: 3
Research Team
Two counseling psychology faculty members
One educational psychology faculty member
One doctoral student
University belongingness is multidimensional
Meaningful differences between domestic and AISs (e.g., acculturation process, academic culture)
Need for like-minded peers to connect
Emphasize acculturation and not assimilation
University-wide recognition of individual students
Hospitality training for faculty/staff
Social Self-Efficacy workshop for students
Valued Group Involvement
"This is such a large campus. Being a part of a group like makes it more, it doesn’t make it feel as big . . . . It definitely makes it feel more like a community.”

“I mean, the camaraderie that you develop with these people, for me it has been very strong the past few years just because we have to band together to survive [our academic discipline].”
Meaningful Personal Relationships
A number of participants felt a connection to the university through a family legacy of attendance, developed friendships with peers, faculty or staff, or found connection with others in shared experiences (i.e., study abroad).
Intrapersonal Factors
There are things that I’m going to tend towards and qualities in people I'm going to find more ideal and more, I don’t know, accepting or interesting to me . . . going through the process is really going to help me identify how to be more open-minded about other people.
Environmental Factors
"The university in general is worried about how many credit hours I am taking, is my financial aid okay, where my is money coming from, are they getting paid, or am I being fed so I don’t complain.... It’s the other things on campus that actually care whether I’m here or not. Like the organizations that are involved in student life."
Interpersonal Interactions
"Right now I think I don’t need too many friends. I just need to feel that someone really cares about me and who I really can talk to."

"As an international student, I think I share more in common with international students, especially Chinese students, but not too much with American students. We have different cultures and we have different values, we think different ways, and we behave differently. I don’t mean that I don’t want to belong with them, I just feel more comfortable with my group. "
Emphasis on Academic Achievement
Participants reported feeling most connected to the university “when doing homework and when taking classes.”

For other participants, academics was described as burdensome and an impediment to social engagement. They reported feeling dissatisfied with their academic performance and struggle to maintain a balance between their academic life and social life. For example, one student reported, “I am too focused on my studies I think, I spend too much time studying and I don't really enjoy the school life sometimes.”
Intrapersonal Factors
"I’m shy with other people and I’m not a very talkative person. So people at first, because I do not talk too much, sometimes they think I’m cold."

Participants discussed ways in which they have grown as a person since beginning their studies (e.g., becoming more independent, mature, self-confident, established in their personal values).
Campus Environment
"We love to wear university stuff, our bookstore is full of stuff…I guess when you’re really proud about your university you just write about, like on Facebook you would write about it a lot, really keep track of all the ball games like football and basketball, and wear a lot of [university] stuff. Stuff like that.
Experiences of Acculturation
"I feel different from other people, especially White people because they will use language I cannot understand…it’s just hard to communicate to others."

"They [the university] won’t gather the information or hear from the international students. They just increased the money and they tell you, oh we increased the money, it’s like we are the ‘money call’ and I don’t like it."
Full transcript