Defining and Measuring Belongingness

Guiding Questions:

  • What is belongingness?
  • What would you look like to assess belongingness?
  • How would you measure belongingess?


Ask students to define belonging. They can do that in words or images. defines belonging as: 

Belonging is a sense of fitting in or feeling like you are an important member of a group. A really close family gives each of its members a strong sense of belonging.

When you belong, you are an official part of a group (“She belongs to the French club”) or you’re compatible with certain people or suited to a specific place (“I just belong in nature”). A feeling of belonging describes this sense of truly fitting or meshing, especially with friends, family members, or other sympathetic folks.

As students how that definition connects with their own definition or understanding. How does it extend that definition? Does it challenge their definition or understanding? 

A recent Wikipedia entry elaborates on a similar concept: the idea of belongingness. The authors of the entry write:

Belongingness is the human emotional need to be an accepted member of a group. Whether it is family, friends, co-workers, a religion, or something else, people tend to have an ‘inherent’ desire to belong and be an important part of something greater than themselves. This implies a relationship that is greater than simple acquaintance or familiarity. The need to belong is the need to give and receive attention to and from others.

Belonging is a strong and inevitable feeling that exists in human nature.[1] To belong or not to belong is a subjective experience that can be influenced by a number of factors within ourselves and our surrounding environment.[1]

Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary argue that belongingness is such a fundamental human motivation that we feel severe consequences for not belonging. Were it not so fundamental then lacking a sense of belonging would not have such dire consequences for us. This desire is so universal that the need to belong is found across all cultures and different types of people.[2]

Ask students to consider how the definition and wikipedia excerpt connect, extend, and challenge their understanding of belonging.

You might ask students to think about how they would measure belonging and belongingness for individuals and communities. What would you ask people? What would you look for in a community? 

From Understanding to Action:

Encourage students to work in groups to create a list of questions or a checklist or rubric for evaluating belongingness in a community.

Once students have completed their projects, have them share with others using the Project Zero Connect-Extend-Challenge thinking routine we introduced earlier.

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