Exploring the links between ‘Belonging’ and ‘Mattering’ and the impact on student achievement

Clair Zawada (Birmingham City University)

Monday, April 4, 2022 2:30 PM - 3:15 PM

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Session Outline

Belongingness is the human need to be accepted, recognised, valued and appreciated by a group of other people (Maslow (1987) cited by Levett-Jones et al. (2007)). The concept of belonging is important for individuals to feel accepted in a social environment (Malone et al., 2012) and is an essential element for mental health and social well-being (Hagerty et al., 1996). The need for belonging is the need for ‘positive and pleasant social contacts within the context of desired relationships with people other than strangers’ and individuals who lack a sense of belonging may feel isolated, alienated and lonely (Mellor et al., 2008). In academia, belongingness is a key contributor to student success and retention (Thomas et al., 2017) and is correlated to a student’s learning which in turn is linked to their ability to participate in the educational practice (Hougaard, 2013). Mattering is defined as the perception that we are a significant part of the world around us. People matter because: others attend to them (awareness), invest in them (importance) or look to them for resources (reliance) (Elliott et al., 2004). Mattering differs to belonging in that perceptions of mattering occur through an individual’s interpretations of others’ behaviours towards them, whereas belonging is more group orientated (Dixon and Tucker, 2008). It is possible for an individual to feel that they belong to a group, but they don’t matter to the people within that group, and vice-versa.

The aim of this research was to assess the relationship between student belonging, mattering and academic achievement in allied health professional students at University. This quantitative study utilised two methods of data collection; a questionnaire, and student academic achievement records in a cross-sectional design. The questionnaire used predominantly Likert scale responses. 264 BSc or DipHE students at levels 4, 5 and 6 were recruited from Radiotherapy, Diagnostic Radiography, Medical Ultrasound, Paramedic Science and ODP, pre-COVID. Students completed a questionnaire comprising of; demographic data; mattering at university scale (Elliot et al, (2004) 24 item index); mattering on placement scale (Elliot et al (2004) 24 item index); belonging at university scale (Malone et al (2012) 6-item GBS scale) and belonging on placement scale (Levett-Jones et al (2009) 34-item scale). Students were also asked for their student ID number, so that academic data could be accessed.

During analysis it was found that there is a statistically significant correlation between the student’s perception of mattering at university and their average grade achieved for the year. This was the only scale that had a statistically significant relationship with academic achievement.

Understanding the importance of mattering and how this may impact on student engagement and achievement may improve the student experience and success within Higher Education.