Enhancing students’ sense of belonging through school celebrations: A study in Finnish lower-secondary schools

2016 IJRSE – Volume 5 Issue 2


Niemi, Pia-Maria*
Department of Teacher Education, University of Helsinki, Finland

Hotulainen, Risto
Department of Teacher Education, University of Helsinki, Finland (risto.hotulainen@helsinki.fi)


The notion of school belonging refers to the sense of membership and relatedness individual students feel with the other students and with the teachers at their school. Educational and psychological studies carried out in various contexts have shown that students’ sense of school belonging is associated with several academic and non-academic outcomes, such as students’ motivation to learn, level of academic achievement, and general future orientation. However, one of the major gaps in school belonging studies is the lack of connections between theoretical studies and actual school practice. There is an international need to gain a better understanding of the factors affecting students’ sense of belonging in schools. To deepen our knowledge of how schools can better promote students’ sense of school belonging at the whole-school level, this study focuses on school celebrations. The study consists of a statistical survey questionnaire conducted at three Finnish lower-secondary schools during the 2013–2014 academic year. To analyze the data and test the methodological hypotheses, we used a structural equation model (SEM). The findings of this study show that students’ socio-emotional and educational experiences of school celebrations are positively related to their sense of school belonging. The study also shows the notable role of peer relationships in shaping students’ social and emotional experiences of these events. The findings highlight the need for educational researchers, curriculum makers, and practitioners to pay more attention to the social, emotional, and educational content that school celebrations provide for students.

Keywords: school belonging; peer connectedness; school celebrations; co-curricular activities


DOI: https://doi.org/10.5861/ijrse.2015.1197

*Corresponding Author