Building Teachers’ Capacity to Support Elementary Student Belonging through Professional Learning Communities

Kelly Ann Paplin, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of targeted social emotional practices, coupled with teacher collaboration, on students’ sense of belonging in elementary school using the improvement science approach. During the six-week plan-do-study-act cycle, teachers (N =5) participated in a biweekly professional learning community (PLC), working collaboratively to support one another in implementing a daily morning meeting and weekly emotional check-in with students (N = 49). This study sought to understand: (1) Do teachers develop their capacity to work as a team through their work together in the PLC? (2) How, if at all, do teachers implement morning meeting and emotional check-ins? (3) How, if at all, does students’ sense of belonging change? Methodology included pre- and post-surveys (Student Belonging Survey, Teachers’ Understanding of Shared Practices Scale), PLC exit tickets, teacher reflection logs, field notes, and semi-structured teacher interviews. Data showed that teachers developed their capacity to work as a team and their own self-efficacy. Data revealed that while teachers consistently implemented morning meeting, they often eliminated the activity component. In addition, emotional check-ins were administered weekly, but the format used varied. Overall, there was no change in students’ sense of belonging as measured by the Student Belonging Scale. However, teachers described engaging students more regularly in sharing their unique experiences with other students and the teacher, and observing evidence that students felt more seen in the classroom.

Subject Area

Elementary education|Teacher education|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Paplin, Kelly Ann, "Building Teachers’ Capacity to Support Elementary Student Belonging through Professional Learning Communities" (2022). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI29259584.