Is a sense of belongingness essential for student engagement and motivation?


What creates a sense of belongingness?

Maslow proposed a hierarchy of needs. At the base are the physiological needs such as thirst and hunger but soon after that comes the need to belong that must be met before the student can reach self-actualization.

If as an educator I believe in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, then it is plausible that each student must have a sense of belonging that will enable them to progress further. So, when considering a 6-8 week clinical placement for a student nurse how do we create an environment that meets this need in such a short time frame on clinical units that do not see the benefit of having student nurses?

Levett-Jones, T., & Lathlean, J. (2008), Is a sense of belongingness essential for student engagement and motivation?found that when a sense of belongingness is achieved, the student nurse is motivated to learn, able to use self-directed learning, and is confident to ask questions. Levett-Jones, & Lathlean (2008), also realized a decidedly lack of anxiety which she acknowledges is a barrier to learning.

Creation of an environment of belongingness can be achieved through the following strategies:

  • Posting photos of the students stating their previous placements. This will give the unit knowledge of the student’s previous experiences and an estimation of their skills and abilities.
  • Post photos of the staff on the unit gives the student a sense of familiarity that is often difficult to achieve quickly given shift work and the varying roles in healthcare.
  • Posting the students learning goals will engage the staff to seek clinical experiences that will foster the development of these competencies while the student is on their unit.

When “motivation and active learning intersect”, according to Barkley E.F. (2009) on p. 8, “dynamic energy” is created. This energy leads to the creation of a sense of belongingness within the student nurse and from my experience causes a shift in the culture on the unit towards one more accepting of students.

Barkley, E. F., (2009). Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. 

Levett-Jones, T., & Lathlean, J. (2008). Belongingness: A prerequisite for nursing students’ clinical learning. Nurse Education in Practice8(2), 103-111.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.








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