Academic journal article High School Journal

The Development of an Adolescent Perception of Being Known Measure

Academic journal article High School Journal

The Development of an Adolescent Perception of Being Known Measure

Article excerpt

Adopting a constructivist perspective of adolescent development, we argue adolescents' perceptions of being known reflect teachers' authentic recognition of adolescents' multiple emerging identities. As such, adolescent perceptions of being known are a distinct factor associated with high school students' engagement in school. A mixed method approach (Phase 1 focus groups, N = 72, Phase 2 cross sectional survey, N = 890) guided the development and testing of an Adolescent Perception of Being Known Scale (A-PBKS). Here, we report on item development, item performance, convergent, divergent, and predictive validity as well as measurement invariance. We conclude the paper by outlining the promise research studying instructional moves through a developmental lens has for understanding teaching and learning in urban high schools.


The experiencing of any one environment, such as an urban high school, elicits processes linked to potential stressors associated with how a student perceives others to view him within the setting (Spencer, 2006; Spencer & Tinsley, 2008). In other words, how connected a youth may be to any particular school environment is dependent upon that youth's reading of the context and, ultimately, the psychosocial perceptions developed in relation to these context-dependent experiences. Theoretical models of student achievement position student perceptions as hypothesized pathways to academic outcomes (Milner, 2011). Thus, it is not surprising that a substantial body of prior research suggests the effect of an educational context on adolescent academic achievement is partially mediated by several key psychosocial constructs (Ford & Smith, 2007; Wentzel, Battle, Russell, & Looney, 2010).

The concept of school connectedness, one such construct, is defined as a youth's perception of how connected, attached or bonded a youth is to a particular school environment (Libbey, 2004). School connectedness has been empirically linked to a variety of important outcomes such as risky behavior (McNeely & Falci, 2004; Resnick et al., 1997), delinquency (Catalano, Haggerty, Oesterle, Fleming, & Hawkins, 2004), and mental health (Shocet, Dadds, Ham, & Montague, 2006).

A robust conceptual definition of school connectedness considers three interrelated dimensions of school connectedness--social support, belonging and engagement--in that the experience of social support engenders a sense of belonging which causes increased engagement (McNeely & Falci, 2004). Applying a context-self-action framework (Connell & Wellborn, 1991) to the three interrelated dimensions of school connectedness results in a theoretical model linking embedded social support to meeting students' psychological needs resulting in engagement. As such, school connectedness is often considered a malleable target for intervention with most aimed at enhancing school connectedness at a universal level through the implementation of school-wide programming (Maddox & Prinz, 2003).

Adolescent Perceptions of Being Known

The challenge, as we read the current evidence base, is to develop empirically-based, applied understandings of how student-teacher relationships influence school connectedness. Yet to our knowledge, every measure of teacher-student relational quality asks students about generalized perceptions of teachers in a school rather than perspectives about particular teachers and specific relationships. In other words, translating empirical understandings of transformative adolescent-teacher relationships, the kind that influence developmental trajectories, at least in part, because these kinds of relationships engender positive psychosocial perceptions, into a detailed understanding of the repertories of teacher practices that build connection is needed.

And there is much to learn from adolescents themselves about what experiences and conditions shape specific characterizations of teacher-student relationships. …

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