Students' Need for Belonging in the School Community

Karen F. Osterman


Defining sense of community as a feeling of belongingness within a group, this article reviews research about students' sense of acceptance within the school community to address three questions: Is this experience of belongingness important in an educational setting? Do students currently experience school as a community? And how do schools influence students' sense of community? Conceptually, the review reflects a social cognitive perspective on motivation. This theoretical framework maintains that individuals have psychological needs, that satisfaction of these needs affects perception and behavior, and that characteristics of the social context influence how well these needs are met. The concern here is how schools, as social organizations, address what is defined as a basic psychological need, the need to experience belongingness. The findings suggest that students' experience of acceptance influences multiple dimensions of their behavior but that schools adopt organizational practices that neglect and may actually undermine students' experience of membership in a supportive community.



This qualitative research review utilized a social cognitive approach, viewing learning as social, to investigate how important belonging is to K-12 school students and how schools impact students’ need to feel accepted. The authors posit that feeling a sense of community is important for student motivation and performance. Results suggest that student behavior varies based on whether they feel accepted into the school community. Overall, students that are accepted display higher levels of motivation and are more engaged. However the actions of many schools are counterintuitive towards assisting students with feeling like they belong and many view school as alienating.

APA Citation

Osterman, K. F. (2000). Students' need for belonging in the school community. Review of educational research, 70(3), 323-367.

About the Study

Links to Article’+need+for+belonging+in+the+school+community&btnG=
Publication Type Journal Article
In Publication Review of Educational Research
Type of Research Theoretical
Research Design Not applicable
Intervention/Areas of Study Cognition or cognitive learning, Instructor-student interactions, Student motivation, Student support, Student-student interactions
Level of Analysis Student-level, Program-level, Institutional-level
Specific Populations Examined Age groups
Peer-Reviewed Yes
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest For-profit, Not-for-profit, Private, Public, K-12
Specific Course or Program Characteristics
Outcome Variables of Interest Academic achievement or performance, including assessment scores and course grades, Institutional effectiveness, Satisfaction
Student Sample Size
Citing Articles,50&sciodt=0,50&hl=en