Fostering School Connectedness Using the Spirals of Inquiry

It’s been a busy school year so far, with lots of time devoted to understanding and using the redesigned curriculum. While we may not have the energy to take on any extra tasks, we can still help students form strong connections to school.  

School connectedness is about creating a school community where everyone feels safe, seen, heard, supported, significant and cared for (BC School Based Mental Health Coalition, 2013). The focus in school connectedness is on building strong, positive relationships: among students, between students and school staff; between school staff, families and the larger community. The presence of caring relationships in schools — the heart of school connectedness — is increasingly recognized as a vital component of successful schools.

Through an inquiry-based approach using the Spirals of Inquiry from the Networks of Inquiry and Innovation (NOII), we can engage with students to ask:

  • Can you name TWO adults in this school who believe you will be a success in life?
  • How do they show you that they believe in you?

We can have discussions with students about what is meant by “success in life”.  The Networks of Inquiry and Innovation (NOII) believe students life success is supported through crossing the stage with dignity, purpose and options.  Using the Spirals of Inquiry as a guide, we can listen for the extent to which students can provide specific examples of the range of ways in which adults are demonstrating their belief in their future success. The first phase of the Spirals of Inquiry, scanning, is an excellent starting point to inquire about school connectedness as this phase involves finding out what is happening for all learners from their perspectives and those of their families and their community.

You may also think about your students and the things that you are already doing to build strong, positive relationships with them. Consider how you might fine-tune your classroom/school environment to foster stronger connections. Can these actions be linked to align with the redesigned curriculum? Are there ways you might make the classroom/school feel more welcoming to all students and their families? Are there ways that you can give students more responsibility and more opportunities to contribute? By doing this, we signal student opinions are valuable, and that they are capable problem solvers — which contributes to a positive environment and strengthens connections.

The changes you make in your classroom and school to increase connectedness can be big or small. They can be as small as re-doubling your effort to form a relationship with that one distant student or as big creating a peer mentoring program. Both ends of the spectrum (and everything in between) help students feel more engaged in their learning and more cared for by the adults in their school. Keep focused on the Spirals of Inquiry powerful questions by continuing to reflect on how’s it going and where to next?

No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.

-James P. Comer, 1995

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