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Community and Belonging Survey of Students 2022

January 5, 2023

Welcome to our presentation of results for the Community and Belonging Survey of Students. All told, 96 independent schools participated (80 American and 16 Canadian), involving 22,297 students enrolled in Grades 9-12. This project generated more than 1,000,000 answers, and literally thousands of pages of tables and graphs, resulting in more than 100 PowerPoint files and mini-presentations. This work has culminated in my own interpretive Analysis of Findings Reports, including highlights and recommendations, one for American schools and one for Canadian. In turn, I’ve narrated an easy-on-the-eyes overview presentation of results, one each for the American and Canadian schools (that’s Step 1 in your review of the results).

Typically, when I take on survey assignments with independent schools, there’s a personal relationship established, from the point of assignment to the presentation of results. Given the number of schools involved (and the fact that this project was undertaken pro bono by John Gulla, Steve Piltch, and yours truly – no one paid to participate and none of us got paid), this personal relationship has not been possible. As a consequence, we’ve done our best to present results in a guided fashion that enables the end user to navigate independently through branched files of data and findings. These findings, involving such a large sample size, and the many cross-tabulations of data, should be of interest, not just to those 96 participating schools, but to anyone engaged in conversation about the student experience.

For those not involved in the project, we’ve recorded a number of short videos, introducing the project and its creators, and describing who did what, when, how, and why. This short video collection provides the necessary context for all that follows.

I’ll leave John and Steve to speak for themselves on why they signed on and embraced this effort. Steve has been asking me for close to 25 years when my ‘book’ would be coming out. From where I sit, this project is that book. When the three of us first met in March 2022, we named this our Making a Difference project. I hope it makes a difference and adds value for you.

I look forward to your feedback.

Kevin Graham


  • From Kevin Graham

  • From Steve Piltch

  • From John Gulla

  • Questionnaire Design

  • Survey Administration

  • How to Read the Tabular Reports

  • How to Read the Graphs

  • How to Read the Ranked Correlation Tables

*If you cannot find an article via the link provided, it should be available for download via ResearchGate.


Engagement in Out-of-Classroom Activities:

Oberle, E., Ji, X. R., Magee, C., Guhn, M., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Gadermann, A. M. (2019). Extracurricular activity profiles and wellbeing in middle childhood: A population-level study. PLOS ONE, 14(7).

Wellbeing and health scores were highest for children in the “All Activities” and the “Sports” clusters.

Anjum, S. (2021). Impact of extracurricular activities on academic performance of students at secondary level. International Journal of Applied Guidance and Counseling, 2(2), 7–14.

Extracurricular activities have a positive influence on students' life by improving their behavior, academic performance, better exam scores, more regular class attendance, and a better self-image.

Im, M. H., Hughes, J. N., Cao, Q., & Kwok, O. M. (2016). Effects of extracurricular participation during middle school on academic motivation and achievement at grade 9. American Educational Research Journal, 53(5), 1343–1375.

Delayed (Grade 8 only) and continuous participation (Grades 7 and 8) in sports predicted competence beliefs and valuing education; delayed and continuous participation in performance arts/clubs predicted teacher-rated engagement and letter grades

Claiborne, L., Morrell, J., Bandy, J., Bruff, D., Smith, G. & Fedesco, H. (2020). Teaching Outside the Classroom. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching.


Sense of Belonging:

Slaten, C. D., Ferguson, J. K., Allen, K.-A., Brodrick, D.-V., & Waters, L. (2016). School belonging: A review of the history, current trends, and Future Directions. The Educational and Developmental Psychologist, 33(1), 1–15.

The current article was designed to review the theoretical foundations of belonging, conceptualise school belonging with respect to how it is presented in the literature, discuss the key variables related to school belonging, present a summary of the predictors of school belonging, discuss school belonging in a university setting, and posit future directions for research.

Parker, P., Allen, K.-A., Parker, R., Guo, J., Marsh, H. W., Basarkod, G., & Dicke, T. (2022). School belonging predicts whether an emerging adult will be not in education, employment, or training (NEET) after school. Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication.

Low school belonging at age 15 is a consistent and practically significant predictor of not in education, employment, or training (NEET) status at ages 16 to 20.

Allen, K.-A. (2022, February 9). A deep dive into the benefits of school belonging. Psychology Today.

Vargas-Madriz, L. F., & Konishi, C. (2021). The relationship between social support and student academic involvement: The mediating role of school belonging. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 36(4), 290–303.

Parental support had a direct relationship with social support and academic involvement, whereas peer and teacher support had a mediated relationship by school belonging with academic involvement.

Riley, K. (2019, December 1). Agency and belonging: What transformative actions can schools take to help create a sense of place and belonging? UCL Discovery - UCL Discovery.

Allen, K.-A., Kern, M. L., Rozek, C. S., McInerney, D. M., & Slavich, G. M. (2021). Belonging: A review of Conceptual Issues, an integrative framework, and directions for future research. Australian Journal of Psychology, 73(1), 87–102.

By identifying the core components of belonging, we introduce a new integrative framework for understanding, assessing, and cultivating belonging that focuses on four interrelated components: competencies, opportunities, motivations, and perceptions.

Cohn-Vargas, B. (2021, July 29). How school leaders can boost students' sense of belonging. Edutopia.

Dunlea, M. (2019, September 4). Every student matters: Cultivating belonging in the classroom. Edutopia.

McCabe, E. M., Davis, C., Mandy, L., & Wong, C. (2021). The role of school connectedness in supporting the health and well-being of youth: Recommendations for school nurses. NASN School Nurse, 37(1), 42–47.

This article details the importance of school connectedness and describes the associations between school connectedness, bullying, and mental health.


Handling the School Workload:

Parker, C. B. (2016, April 16). Stanford research shows pitfalls of homework. Stanford News.

Dell’Antonia, K. (2014, March 12). Homework's emotional toll on students and families. The New York Times.

Terada, Y. (2018, February 23). What's the right amount of homework? Edutopia.


Emotional Safety and Inclusion:

Porter, J., McDermott, T., Daniels, H., & Ingram, J. (2021). Feeling part of the school and feeling safe: Further development of a tool for investigating school belonging. Educational Studies, 1–17.

Students frequently mentioned relationships with teachers and peers, often in the context of feeling safe to be themselves, suggesting that feeling part of the school and feeling safe are intertwined. The comments reveal the importance of being recognised and accepted and not having their identity purely defined in relation to attainment on a narrowly defined curriculum.

Mori, Y., Tiiri, E., Khanal, P., Khakurel, J., Mishina, K., & Sourander, A. (2021). Feeling unsafe at school and associated mental health difficulties among children and adolescents: A systematic review. Children (Basel, Switzerland), 8(3), 232.

          Not feeling safe at school was related to being victimized and mental health difficulties, including depressive symptoms and suicidal behavior. Higher perceived school safety was associated with measures such as the presence of a security officer and fair school rule enforcement.

CAO Central. (2022, April 8). Children learn best when they feel safe and valued. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Bernard, S. (2010, December 1). To enable learning, put (emotional) safety first. Edutopia.

Emotional safety. National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments (NCSSLE). (n.d.).

Mears, E. (2022, May 12). Children's emotional safety and mental health in the classroom is just as important as physical safety. Teachwire.

Eager, J. (2019, May 1). Supporting students' intersecting identities. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Killen, M., & Rutland, A. (2022). Promoting fair and just school environments: Developing inclusive youth. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 9(1), 81–89.

Three strategies recommended to address these converging problems include creating inclusive and non-discriminatory policies for schools, promoting opportunities for intergroup contact and mutual respect, and implementing evidence-based, developmentally appropriate education programs designed to reduce prejudice, increase ethnic and racial identity, and promote equity, fairness and justice in school environments.

Russell, S. T., Bishop, M. D., Saba, V. C., James, I., & Ioverno, S. (2021). Promoting School safety for LGBTQ and all students. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 8(2), 160–166.

Schools are often unsafe for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) students; they frequently experience negative or hostile school climates, including bullying and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity at school. Negative school climates and discriminatory experiences can threaten LGBTQ students’ well-being. Curricula that is SOGIE-inclusive, provides students with resources, support, and inclusion, as well as presence of student-led clubs or organizations such as gender-sexuality alliances (i.e., GSAs), can improve students’ school experiences and well-being, and contribute to positive school climate.

Leath, S., Mathews, C., Harrison, A., & Chavous, T. (2019). Racial Identity, racial discrimination, and classroom engagement outcomes among black girls and boys in predominantly black and predominantly white school districts. American Educational Research Journal, 56(4), 1318–1352.

Racial discrimination was negatively associated with academic curiosity and persistence, but this effect was moderated by gender and racial identity. Our findings demonstrate the harmful influence of discrimination on the academic engagement of African American adolescents and the protective roles of racial identity beliefs across gender and school racial contexts.

Weir, K. (2016, November). Inequality at school. Monitor on Psychology.

Jones, J. M. (2022, June 10). LGBT identification in U.S. ticks up to 7.1%. Gallup.

Kefallinou, A., Symeonidou, S., & Meijer, C. J. (2020). Understanding the value of inclusive education and its implementation: A review of the literature. PROSPECTS, 49(3-4), 135–152.

This article reviews scholarly evidence on inclusion and its implementation, to show how inclusive education helps ensure both quality education and later social inclusion.

Tavangar, H. (2017, November 8). Creating an inclusive classroom. Edutopia.



Lessard, L. M., & Juvonen, J. (2018). Losing and gaining friends: Does friendship instability compromise academic functioning in middle school? Journal of school psychology69, 143–153.

Friendship instability captures a disruptive social process that can compromise academic functioning in middle school.

Pepler, D., & Bierman, K. (2021, August 16). With a little help from my friends. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Kiuru, N., Wang, M. T., Salmela-Aro, K., Kannas, L., Ahonen, T., & Hirvonen, R. (2020). Associations between Adolescents' Interpersonal Relationships, School Well-being, and Academic Achievement during Educational Transitions. Journal of youth and adolescence49(5), 1057–1072.

The results support a transactional model illustrating the reciprocal associations between the quality of interpersonal relationships and school well-being during the transition to lower secondary school. As such, the presence of high quality interpersonal relationships promoted higher academic achievement through increased school well-being, whereas high school well-being promoted higher subsequent academic achievement through increased quality of interpersonal relationships.

Arsenault-Carter, T., Gauci, T., Karasek, Q., & Johnston, J. (2022, April 1). Building Elementary School student-teacher relationships. Classroom Practice in 2022.

Coristine, S., Russo, S., Fitzmorris, R., Beninato, P., & Rivolta, G. (2022, April 1). The importance of student-teacher relationships. Classroom Practice in 2022.



von Stumm, S., Hell, B., & Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2011). The Hungry Mind. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(6), 574–588. doi: 10.1177/1745691611421204

A series of path models based on a meta-analytically derived correlation matrix showed that intelligence, Conscientiousness (as marker of effort), and Typical Intellectual Engagement (as marker of intellectual curiosity) are direct, correlated predictors of academic performance, and the additive predictive effect of the personality traits of intellectual curiosity and effort rival that the influence of intelligence. These results highlight that a “hungry mind” is a core determinant of individual differences in academic achievement.

Schutte, N.S., Malouff, J.M. A meta-analytic investigation of the impact of curiosity-enhancing interventions. Curr Psychol (2022).

Curiosity is associated with a number of beneficial outcomes, such as greater life satisfaction, more work engagement and better academic performance. The connection between curiosity and beneficial outcomes supports the importance of examining whether it is possible to increase curiosity and to investigate what approaches may be effective in facilitating curiosity. Across 41 randomized controlled trials, with a total of 4,496 participants, interventions significantly increased curiosity across a variety of principles used, with participants in various age groups, across various measures, and over different time periods. 

Nixon, G. (2019, March 13). How schools are killing love of learning. Gemm Learning.

Stockinger, K., Rinas, R., & Daumiller, M. (2021). Student adaptability, emotions, and achievement: Navigating New Academic Terrains in a global crisis. Learning and Individual Differences, 90, 102046.

Adaptability was positively related to hope, and negatively related to anxiety and hopelessness. Anxiety was also negatively related to end-of-semester test scores, and indirectly linked adaptability and test scores. Hopelessness indirectly linked adaptability and perceived learning.

Martin, A. J., Nejad, H. G., Colmar, S., & Liem, G. A. (2013). Adaptability: How students’ responses to uncertainty and novelty predict their academic and non-academic outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(3), 728–746.

Adaptability significantly predicted academic (class participation, school enjoyment, and positive academic intentions—positively; self-handicapping and disengagement—negatively) and non-academic (self-esteem, life satisfaction, and sense of meaning and purpose—positively) outcomes beyond the effects of socio-demographic factors, prior achievement, personality, implicit theories, and 2 cognate correlates (buoyancy and self-regulation).

Flor, R. K., Bita, A., Monir, K. C., & Zohreh, Z. Z. (2013). The effect of teaching critical and creative thinking skills on the locus of control and psychological well-being in adolescents. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 82, 51–56.

After educational sessions that taught students critical and creative thinking skills, there was a significant increase in internal locus of control and psychological well-being.

Gagani, F., Carredo, B., Daan, E. A., Enriquez, J., Fernan, M. J., Manlunas, I., & Tayurang, E. J. (2021). Investigating students' emotional stability as a predictor of stress management while engaging in flexible online learning during COVID-19. International Journal Papier Public Review, 2(2), 52–61.

The results of this study found that emotionally stable students are better at managing their stress.

Popat, A., & Tarrant, C. (2022). Exploring adolescents’ perspectives on social media and mental health and well-being – a qualitative literature review. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 135910452210928.

Five main themes were identified: 1) Self-expression and validation, 2) Appearance comparison and body ideals, 3) Pressure to stay connected, 4) Social engagement and peer support and 5) Exposure to bullying and harmful content. This review has highlighted how social media use can contribute to poor mental health – through validation-seeking practices, fear of judgement, body comparison, addiction and cyberbullying. It also demonstrates social media’s positive impact on adolescent wellbeing - through connection, support and discussion forums for those with similar diagnoses.

Yeo, S. C., Tan, J., Lo, J. C., Chee, M. W. L., & Gooley, J. J. (2020). Associations of time spent on homework or studying with nocturnal sleep behavior and depression symptoms in adolescents from Singapore. Sleep Health, 6(6), 758–766.

Time in bed for sleep and media use were inversely related with homework/studying duration on both school days and weekends, adjusting for time spent on other activities and demographic variables. Face-to-face family time and hanging out with friends were also reciprocally related with homework/studying duration on weekends. Depression scores were higher in adolescents who spent long hours on homework/studying. On school days, this was mediated by reduced time in bed for sleep. On weekends, homework/studying duration associated with depression symptoms, adjusting for time in bed and other covariates. Adolescents who spent ≥5 hours on homework/studying per day on weekends had greater symptoms of anhedonia and anxiety.

Qiu, J., & Morales-Muñoz, I. (2022). Associations between Sleep and Mental Health in Adolescents: Results from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. International journal of environmental research and public health19(3), 1868.

Long sleep onset latency and late bedtime at school days were associated with higher risk of emotional and behavioural difficulties. Further, poor sleep seems to manifest more externally in males, while more internally in females.