Improving Students' Sense of Belonging in Middle School After the Pandemic

Meghan Meyer, Fordham University


The McLean Middle School, a pseudonym, educates 155 students coming from Virginia, Maryland, and Washington DC. As a result of the pandemic and staff departures, the advisory programming, intended to create community within the middle school ceased to function. As in-person learning returned, staff saw a significant increase in behavioral infractions, specifically altercations that became physical. Using an Improvement Science approach, student lack of belonging and connection were identified as root causes for these behaviors. Our aim was to increase teacher capacity-identified two primary drivers: a) providing structure for advisory and b) practicing explicit and consistent disciplinary expectations and consequences. We created a theory of action to address these drivers: If we pair students in small groups led by an adult with normed expectations, structures for advisory, programming, and response to student behavior; students will understand expectations, build healthy relationships with peers and faculty, and create a sense of belonging and community. This led to three change ideas: reinstituting weekly advisory using the responsive advisory meeting model with a consistent structure; introducing Responsive Classroom training for teachers; and adding monthly advisory lunches and study halls. The study employed a mixed methods approach to evaluate two Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles supported by data from exit tickets, meeting notes, observations, student surveys, advisor surveys, student interviews, and advisor interviews.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Education|Middle School education

Recommended Citation

Meyer, Meghan, "Improving Students' Sense of Belonging in Middle School After the Pandemic" (2023). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI30632062.