Student attachment to school in three secondary schools
Zwarych, M. Suzanne
The purpose of this study was to explore student, teacher, and administrator perspectives regarding student attachment in three secondary school environments that contained a wide variety of programs and served a diverse spectrum of student needs. Student attachment was examined by using a questionnaire, by interviewing students and teachers in focus group meetings, and by documenting student, teacher, and administrator perspectives regarding student attachment and the ways schools may encourage student attachment to school. The central question posed was, "What is student attachment to school, and does it exist to the same extent in different schools and school programs?" The study employed data collected from three secondary schools--an alternative community school with block scheduling, a collegiate organized with teacher advisory groupings, and a comprehensive collegiate with technical--vocational elective courses. Within two of the schools were French Immersion programs and one school held an advanced program for academically talented students. In total, 373 students completed a questionnaire, 88 students and 20 teachers participated in 19 focus group meetings and three administrators, one at each site, were interviewed. Several techniques were employed to analyze the quantitative and qualitative data collected through the questionnaire, focus groups, and administrator interviews. Using factor analysis, seven factors were generated, providing a framework for examining student attachment to school. The factors delineated were belongingness, self esteem, friendships, teacher relationships, valuing school, involvement, and security. These seven factors allowed for a clear description of how this construct was perceived by students, teachers, and administrators within the three school sites. It was found that students scoring high on some or all of these factors were attached to school. Low scores on most or all factors indicated alienation or a lack of attachment to school. Students in a school with a philosophy of support and an emphasis on relationships had higher scores for belongingness and teacher relationships, while students in specialized programs such as Advanced or French Immersion had higher scores for self esteem and friendships. Students in modified-tracked courses exhibited lower scores on many of the attachment to school factors. Student attachment to school existed in all three sites examined through this study, but the extent of the individual constructs comprising attachment to school varied. As the scores for the seven factors outlined by the responses to the questionnaire varied a great deal by program and by school, it became apparent that each of the learning environments affected student perceptions of their belongingness, friendships, relationships with teachers, valuing of school, involvement in activities, and security. Self esteem appeared to be the product of more than just the present learning environment. Measuring student attachment to school is one way to gauge the effectiveness of the learning environment. Since a significant difference in student attachment to school has been identified between schools participating in this study and even between student programs within the same school, findings of the study support addressing student attachment to school when determining the organizational structure of a secondary school. It is apparent there is a relationship for students between marks and attachment to school. Further studies are necessary to understand to what extent student achievement influences each of the attachment factors or to what extent each of the factors influences student achievement.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeSackney, Lawrence (Larry); Hajnal, Vivian; Haines, Len; Friesen, David; Walker, Keith D.
Copyright DateApril 2004