UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Sense of belonging and immigrant parents : strengthening the family-school partnership Rahimi Fard Jahromi, Seyedeh Dorna


Immigrant students and families are increasingly becoming important members of our education system. In 2014, Canada welcomed more than 200,000 newcomers (Citizenship & Immigration Canada, 2015). The experience and success of immigrant students has been linked to many school and home factors (Alexander, Entwisle, & Thompson, 1987; Fuligini, 1997). Culturally based explanations of success argue that immigrant students’ success and experiences in school can be fully explained by their race or socioeconomic status (Trueba, 1988). The effectiveness of their home (family) and school environments should also be considered (Trueba, 1988). Research has also demonstrated that immigrant families contribute to their child’s education in different ways (Fuligni, 1997; Lopez, 2001). Therefore, family-school partnership is very integral to immigrant students’ success. While schools have focused on different ways of integrating students and families in schools, some scholars argue that studying how immigrant individuals experience sense of belonging is a more appropriate direction (Hurtado & Carter, 1997). However, research is unclear on how immigrant families, who are new members of the community, can become part of the school community (Puig, Erwin, Evenson, & Beresford, 2015). Employing an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, this study used semi-structured interviews to explore immigrant families’ perceptions and experiences of sense of belonging in their child’s school, and teachers’ perceptions of sense of belonging for school community members and experiences of enhancing sense of belonging for immigrant families. The findings suggest that families perceive sense of belonging as being informed, having a support system, and feeling emotionally safe. They experienced sense of belonging in their children’s schools when they felt included, and had effective communication. Teachers perceived that sense of belonging for school community members means having a welcoming environment. Teachers also discussed communication and relationship building as some of the strategies they use in enhancing sense of belonging for immigrant parents. Relevance of these findings with their implications in a broader sociocultural understanding is discussed.

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