School Name: Pleasant Valley Elementary
School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith
Inquiry Team Members:Diane McGonigle: firstname.lastname@example.org, Jennifer Robinson: email@example.com, Kim Davie: firstname.lastname@example.org, Ruth Sharon: email@example.com, Wenda Allan: firstname.lastname@example.org, Christine Angelucci: email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Physical & Health Education, Other: ‘Behaviours for Success’ and Social-Emotional Learning
Focus Addressed: Growth mindset, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Social and emotional learning, Other: Sense of Belonging/School Connectedness
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Increasing sense of belonging/school connectedness for disconnected students
Scanning: Our school based team has been discussing different ways to support our students who are struggling in social-emotional ways based on our knowledge of the students and our class review process. We wondered about their feelings of connectedness in general and whether they feel connected to adults within the school. And we wondered if we were missing any students. The principal and vice-principal surveyed our Grade 2 to 7 students and had them reflect on the following statements.
I am happy at school.
I feel welcome at Pleasant Valley.
I feel like an important member of my classroom.
I feel like an important member of my school.
The choices were:
Almost all of the time Most of the time Some of the time A few times None of the time (with faces to match)
The final question was:
How many adults at Pleasant Valley do you think care about you and believe in you? 0 1 2 3 4 or more
How do you know they care about you?
Our focus was the first of the four key questions: Can you name TWO adults in this school who believe you will be a success in life?
How do they show you that they believe in you?
We were focused on the First Peoples Principles of Learning related to supporting the well-being of the student and learning is focused on connectedness, reciprocal relationships and a sense of place.
Our results confirmed our speculations for some students but surprised us for other students.
Focus: We determined our focus based on information shared at class reviews and observations of different students who are struggling in social-emotional ways in the classrooms or during less structured times such as recess/lunch. Our goal is to increase sense of belonging for those students who identified as disconnected based on the answers to the survey statements/questions and to see if an increase in sense of belonging translated to better problem solving and resiliency.
Hunch: Staff may not realize that some students do not feel a sense of belonging in the classroom and/or school and/or do not feel connected to adults in the school.
Staff may not realize the long-term impacts of trauma, including residential schools, on students’ social-emotional learning.
New Professional Learning: We explored learning more about trauma informed practice and how to build resiliency. Trauma-informed practice is about creating a school environment where every student feels safe and supported and where staff understand how trauma affects behaviour and emotions.
Explored Alberta Education https://education.alberta.ca/trauma-informed-practice/?searchMode=3
Explored Healing Families, Helping Systems: A Trauma-Informed Practice Guide for Working with Children, Youth and Families Nov. 2016 MCFD https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/health/child-teen-mental-health/trauma-informed_practice_guide.pdf
Learned more about school connectedness
Explored Healthy Schools BC https://healthyschoolsbc.ca/key-focus-areas/school-connectedness/
Kids Matter https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/mental-health-matters/belonging
First People’s Principles of Learning – Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational (focused on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships, and a sense of place). We worked on trying to achieve this with students who seemed disconnected.
Taking Action: The principal and vice-principal surveyed our Grade 2 to 7 students in Oct/Nov and had them reflect on the following statements: I am happy at school; I feel welcome at Pleasant Valley; I feel like an important member of my classroom; and I feel like an important member of my school.
The choices were: Almost all of the time; Most of the time; Some of the time; A few times; and None of the time (with faces to match)
The final question was: How many adults at Pleasant Valley do you think care about you and believe in you? 0 1 2 3 4 or more
How do you know they care about you?
Our results confirmed our speculations for some students but surprised us for other students. We collated the data and shared the results with staff. We had discussions as a whole school about what staff noticed about their classes and the school in general. We separated out the data for our Indigenous learners and discussed that data. We also discussed what the data didn’t tell us and what questions the data made us have. We also discussed for some of our students new to the school that they may not be feeling connected a couple of months into the school year.
Taking the information from the surveys, the SBT looked at the students and ensured there were supports in place for those feeling disconnected. Supports ranged from small groups to check-ins to staff focusing on relationships with those students.
In May, the Principal and Vice-Principal used the same survey and resurveyed the 29 students who came out as disconnected in some way from the original survey. All but two of the students showed significant changes in their level of connectedness and in the number of adults who cared about them and how they know.
Checking: We were happy with the differences made after resurveying the students we were most concerned about based on the initial surveys. We were aware of many of the students but there definitely were some surprised from the initial survey. The strategies we put in place were successful as they helped the kids have stronger connections and helped them realize there is a team beyond their classroom to support them. It is difficult to get students to describe specifically “How do you know they (the adults) care about you?”. Many students answered with information like, “They are nice.” or “They help me when I am hurt.” or “They smile and say hello.” We found that the two students we interviewed for our NOIIE local Showcase were able to be more specific with prompting. This is something to keep in mind when administering the survey in the future. Perhaps we could share some of the specific examples students gave us. For example, “They always encourage me.” and “They help me with friendship problems that I am struggling with.” and ” (staff member) is good at mental health and understanding anxiety.”
*We felt it was valuable that the survey was administered in a consistent fashion across classrooms.
*We could have resurveyed all the students to see if those that were connected in the fall were still feeling a sense of belonging with the school.
*It is difficult to get students to describe specifically “How do you know they (the adults) care about you?”. Many students answered with broad answers. We found that the two students we interviewed for our NOIIE local Showcase were able to be more specific with prompting (see above for examples). This is something to keep in mind when administering the survey.
*We do plan to administer the survey again next year and possibly do it annually. It fits with our School District’s Strategic Plan goal of SAFE, CARING AND HEALTHY LEARNING AND WORKING ENVIRONMENT THAT IS INCLUSIVE OF THE DIVERSITY 2 OF OUR ENTIRE LEARNING COMMUNITY and the objectives of:
Increase the number of students who feel welcomed, safe, connected and have a sense of belonging in their school
Increase the number of students who feel there are two or more adults at their school who care about them
Increasing awareness and capacity in addressing mental health and wellness
Increasing awareness and capacity in supporting children and youth in care
Increase employee engagement