The Effects of a Social Belonging Intervention on First Year College Student Success
Recent research has demonstrated the importance of social belonging in relation to college success in all students, but primarily for African-American students and first-generation college students. The present study was conducted to examine the relationship between belonging and student success at a small liberal arts college in Central Kansas. Participants in this study were 123 first-year freshmen (64 males and 59 females) who took the Psychological Sense of School Membership survey (PSSM; Goodenow, 1993) before reading either a social-belonging narrative or an academic success narrative from a current senior at the college. Students randomly were assigned to narrative groups within blocks defined by Freshman Seminar instructor, race and whether they were a first-generation college student or not. After students read the narrative, they were asked to write a short paragraph about how the narrative could relate to themselves and their success at the college.
At the end of the semester, all participants took the PSSM survey again, along with answering various questions relating to student success; the researchers also collected semester grade-point averages. Results indicated an increase in belonging scores of the social-belonging narrative intervention group and a statistically significant relationship between social belonging and academic performance. However, there were no significant differences in belonging or academic performance between the two narrative groups, irrespective of racial or first-generation block. The small college environment and the high proportion of students involved in varsity athletics (nearly three-fourths) may have altered the effect of the narrative intervention. Thus, the findings of the present study employing a randomized experimental design, while supporting the role of social belonging in student success, do not indicate an intervention modeled after those used in large university settings is effective in this small-college environment.
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