Students with a migration background feel less sense of belonging in teacher education
A new study by the DIPF | Leibniz Institute for Research and Information in Education and the Goethe University Frankfurt shows that students with a migration background have a lower sense of belonging to the teaching education at the universities compared to their fellow students. At the same time, they are more likely to drop out of their studies. The study, which has been carried out in Germany and which has now been published, also provides evidence that there may be a connection between the lack of a sense of belonging and the decision to prematurely drop out of the teacher education – among other influencing factors.
Several aspects underline the relevance of the findings: There is a high demand for teachers in Germany. Therefore, it is generally important to learn more about what might lead to dropping out of these studies. In addition, students with a migration background are underrepresented in teacher education. Yet teachers with a migration background are sought after for a variety of reasons: Their intercultural competence can help in teaching a diverse student body. They can also serve as role models for children and young people. „Last but not least, it is a question of educational equity that all students, regardless of their background, have the same opportunities to successfully complete their studies,“ emphasizes Dr. Kristin Wolf of the DIPF. She is the lead author of the article in the scientific journal “Zeitschrift für Entwicklungspsychologie und Pädagogische Psychologie” presenting the study.
Sample and research methodology:
Dr. Wolf, along with other researchers, examined the issues of sense of belonging and dropout intentions using a sample of 925 students in teacher education. The study participants attended four different universities, in different semesters, and with different subject specializations (for example, German or biology) and school specializations (for example, elementary school or high school). 28.5 percent of the sample had a migration background, meaning that the students themselves or at least one parent were born abroad. The researchers used standardized questionnaires to assess the students‘ sense of belonging and their intentions to drop out. The results were used to rank the strength of both variables on a scale of one to six.
As a result, it became clear that students with a migration background had a lower sense of belonging and higher dropout intentions. The researchers then analyzed the relationships between the two findings using statistical structural equation models. In doing so, they calculated out various other variables that can also influence sense of belonging and dropout intentions, as far as possible. These include, for example, the educational background of the parents, high school graduation grades, gender, the school specialization chosen in the course of study, the university location and the subject of study. Thus, the research team was able to document an individual – albeit small – effect of the sense of belonging on the dropout intentions of students with a migration background. No concrete conclusions can be drawn about its significance in comparison to the other factors based on the study design.
In research, the sense of belonging and dropout intentions of student teachers have been little investigated so far. The present study now provides more in-depth findings in this regard and at the same time indicates the need for further research. Longer studies with more measurement points and additional measurement tools that do not rely solely on students‘ self-reported experiences would be desirable. In this way, statements about the correlations could possibly be strengthened. For Kristin Wolf, however, the current study already offers reason for initial pointers to university teaching: „It has become clear that it could be worthwhile to promote students‘ sense of belonging in addition to their professional competencies.“ According to the DIPF scientist, research has shown that group work can be a useful tool for this purpose. She added that non-university events are also useful, especially at the beginning of studies, to get to know each other and develop a sense of community.
The data examined come from the research program „Educational Knowledge as a Part of Professional Competence in Teacher Education“ (Bildungswissenschaftliches Wissen und der Erwerb professioneller Kompetenz in der Lehramtsausbildung – BilWiss) coordinated at Goethe University Frankfurt. The program, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, was realized together with other universities and scientific institutions and concluded in 2019. It is planned to continue long-term studies from the project at DIPF and to document the structure of the work as well as the results available so far on a dedicated website.
The DIPF is the Leibniz Institute for Research and Information in Education with locations in Frankfurt am Main and in Berlin. It aims to contribute to meeting challenges for education and for researching education. To this end, the institute supports schools, daycare centers, science, administration and politics with research, information infrastructures and knowledge transfer.
About Goethe University:
Goethe University is a research-oriented university in the European financial centre Frankfurt. The university was founded in 1914 through private funding, primarily from Jewish sponsors, and has since produced pioneering achievements in the areas of social sciences, sociology and economics, medicine, quantum physics, brain research, and labour law. It gained a unique level of autonomy on 1 January 2008 by returning to its historic roots as a „foundation university“. Today, it is one of the three largest universities in Germany. Together with the Technical University of Darmstadt and the University of Mainz, it acts as a partner of the inter-state strategic Rhine-Main University Alliance.
Dr. Kristin Wolf, +49 (0)69 24708-218, Wolf.Kristin@dipf.de
Wolf, K., Maurer, C. & Kunter, M. (2021). „I Don’t Really Belong Here”: Examining Sense of Belonging in Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Teacher Students. Zeitschrift für Entwicklungspsychologie und Pädagogische Psychologie, 53 (1-2), 1-14. doi:10.1026/0049-8637/a000233