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Students’ Sense of Belonging in Technical/Vocational Schools Versus Academic Schools: The Mediating Role of Faculty Trust in Students


by Mieke Van Houtte & Dimitri Van Maele — 2012

Background: Since the late 1960s, research has demonstrated repeatedly that students in lower tracks achieve less as they develop an antischool culture to overcome the status deprivation resulting from being in a lower track. In quantitative large-scale research, this antischool culture is usually assessed using poor academic attitudes or study disengagement because antischool norms disengage students from the learning process. The extent to which students in different tracks feel embedded in their school communities—their sense of school belonging—has rarely been examined, although academic engagement and sense of belonging are related to each other and to achievement.

Objective: This article examines students’ sense of belonging in secondary schools that offer different tracks, and the role played by the faculty’s trust in the students.

Participants: The study is based on data from 3,475 students and 754 teachers in 28 technical/vocational schools and 3,376 students and 461 teachers in 22 academic schools in Flanders, the northern, Dutch-speaking part of Belgium.

Research Design: Use is made of (stepwise) multilevel analyses (HLM6).

Results: The analyses show that students in technical/vocational schools have a significant lower sense of belonging than students in academic schools. This association disappears if we take into account faculty trust in students. The association between school type and perceived teacher support, a subdimension of the sense of belonging, is not mediated by faculty trust, but is due to the lower GPA of students in technical/vocational schools.

Conclusions: The results indicate that teachers play a crucial role in the divergent nature of students’ social integration across different types of schools. In terms of strengthening students’ connectedness to a technical/vocational school environment, our results indicate that strengthening teachers’ level of trust in students could be crucial.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 114 Number 7, 2012, p. 1-36
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16467, Date Accessed: 10/30/2014 2:14:45 PM

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About the Author
  • Mieke Van Houtte
    Ghent University
    E-mail Author
    MIEKE VAN HOUTTE, Ph.D. sociology, is currently working as lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Research Group CuDOS, at Ghent University (Belgium). Her research interests cover diverse topics within the sociology of education, particularly the effects of structural and compositional school features on several outcomes for students and teachers. Her work has been published in journals such as Journal of Curriculum Studies, Journal of Educational Research, School Effectiveness and School Improvement, Sociology of Education, and American Educational Research Journal.
  • Dimitri Van Maele
    Ghent University
    DIMITRI VAN MAELE is a researcher in the Department of Sociology, Research Group CuDOS, at Ghent University (Belgium). Dealing with the topic of teacher trust within Flemish secondary schools, he is completing a doctoral project funded by the Research Foundation–Flanders (project G001308N). His research interests are situated within the fields of the sociology of education, organization, and work. His previous work has been published in the journals Educational Administration Quarterly and Social Indicators Research.
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