The Effect of Social Skills on Middle School Belonging and Academic Motivation in Low-Income, Minority Students



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The present research investigated associations between the basic need satisfaction of belongingness and intrinsic academic motivation in low-income, minority middle school students. Current literature suggests that students in middle school suffer a drop in basic need satisfaction and school engagement. Students reporting supportive relationships are better adjusted and more academically engaged. One method used to encourage these relationships is the emphasis of social skills. Therefore, the present research explored whether adding social skills lessons to a middle school curriculum increased intrinsic academic motivation by increasing belonging among students, particularly among a low-income, minority student sample. This was tested in a three-week long study where participants enrolled in summer school (n = 95) completed baseline, weekly, and follow-up measures of need satisfaction and intrinsic academic motivation while receiving weekly social skills lessons. Results indicated that there were no significant differences between baseline and follow-up belongingness satisfaction or intrinsic academic motivation. Study limitations include a small sample size and fidelity challenges, and future research should aim for a larger sample size and a lengthier, more structured longitudinal design.



Intrinsic motivation, Belonging, Social skills, Academic adjustment, Middle school, Basic needs, Psychology