Creating and Sustaining a Sense of Belonging through Explicit Teacher Practice

Trisha Nugent Fitzgerald, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to explore how Responsive Classroom’s Morning Meetings led by trained teachers (N = 9) improved students’ (N = 85) sense of belonging in their classrooms in a public K-5 elementary school in New York State. This eight-week mixed methods study, conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, used improvement science in two iterative Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles run in tandem. The intention was to better understand how Morning Meetings could 1) decrease variation in students’ sense of belonging within their classroom community and 2) increase individual students’ feelings of belonging. Additionally, this study sought to understand how teachers’ shared learning experiences, rooted in active reflection and collaborative critical inquiry groups, could deepen and sustain classroom practices. Methodology included pre- and post-intervention surveys for students as well as reflective journaling, critical inquiry groups, and interviews for teachers. Teachers reported strengthened connectedness and greater perceptions of trust and safety. Data confirmed improvements to student sense of belonging; however, data analysis was inconclusive as to whether it was the result of the intervention. Teachers reported increased fluency in using all three components of Morning Meeting (i.e., the greeting, share, and activity). Despite the time commitment, teachers valued Morning Meeting as a way to promote stronger connections in the classroom community. Data affirmed that the use of critical inquiry groups with a focused protocol for collaboration and protected autonomy for teachers on how the process was carried out, coupled with support from building leadership, was successful in driving improvement.

Subject Area

Education|Elementary education|Teacher education|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Fitzgerald, Trisha Nugent, "Creating and Sustaining a Sense of Belonging through Explicit Teacher Practice" (2021). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28497509.