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Understanding Students' Perceptions of a High School Course Designed to Enhance School Connectedness

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  • This study was supported in part by Grant R49/CCR918619-01 and Cooperative Agreement #1 U49/CE000749-01 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The contents of this article are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the funding agency. Special thanks to the staff of the Asian/Pacific Islander Youth Violence Prevention Center for their assistance with this study and Kailua High School for their collaborative efforts.

Address correspondence to: Jane Chung-Do, Assistant Professor, (chungj@dop.hawaii.edu), Department of Psychiatry, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, 1441 Kapi'olani Blvd., Suite 1802, Honolulu, HI 96814.

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND

This study was a part of an evaluation of a 4-year high school course to enhance students' school connectedness from freshman to senior year with primarily an Asian and Pacific Islander student body in Hawai‘i. The purpose of this study was to understand how the course may impact students' sense of school connectedness and identify factors important in course effectiveness.

METHODS

Focus group guides were developed in collaboration with course instructors. Approximately 70 students from each grade level were randomly selected to participate in focus groups. All focus groups occurred during the 30-minute lunch period and lunch was provided.

RESULTS

Focus groups conducted with 67 students revealed that students perceive teachers to play an essential role in the effectiveness of the course. Students also viewed the small class size and staying in the same class for all 4 years as important components in supporting the relationship-building aspect of the course, which enhances students' level of academic motivation and school involvement. Suggestions for ways that teachers can help build students' sense of school connectedness through the course included integrating their personal experiences into the lessons and facilitating more interactive discussions and team-building activities.

CONCLUSION

Our findings suggest that students recognize the course as a valuable opportunity to build personal relationships that are essential to their sense of school connectedness. Schools should make more effort at incorporating strategies that build students' sense of school connectedness by providing relationship-building opportunities.

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