Date of Submission


Document Type



Doctor of Education




belongingness. relationships, marginalized, racially and culturally diverse, professional learning communities, culturally responsive pedagogy


The importance of social relationships and belonging (a fundamental human need that must be satisfied to enable positive relationship-building skills and physical and mental wellness) have been studied for decades. Research shows a strong sense of belongingness for students can positively impact their academic performance. Belongingness, or a connection to school, peers, and teachers, is strongly indicative of improved performance for historically marginalized, racially and culturally diverse students. St. Kizito school (pseudonym), an elementary school in a large urban center in Alberta, has a diverse demographic of students including many first-generation Canadians, new Canadians, and refugee students. School-based data shows that not all students have a strong connection to their school, teachers, or classmates. Some teachers may not be adequately prepared to use meaningful instructional strategies that promote belongingness for all students. Not all teacher training programs include instruction in cultural responsiveness and fostering meaningful connections. Therefore, it is proposed to provide such training at St. Kizito school through professional learning communities. Implementing pedagogical practices that allow teachers to support racially and culturally diverse students and promote a sense of belongingness are explored through authentic and culturally responsive school leadership and an inquiry change model.

Keywords: belongingness, relationships, academic performance, marginalized, racially and culturally diverse, professional learning communities, authentic leadership, culturally responsive school leadership