Through a survey of 116 high school students from the Philippines, the researchers set out to find whether student perceptions of school kindness had any influence on their approach to learning. More precisely, the psychologists focused on achievement goals and academic engagement.
According to the Achievement Goal framework, students can approach learning in four different ways:
As for academic engagement, the Four Factor Model states that it can be either
To assess perception of school kindness, the team asked students to quantify on a likert scale their feeling of safety at school, the quality of student-teacher relationships, the sense of schoolwide connectedness, etc.
Results showed that perception of school kindness was positively associated with all aspects of academic engagement, and in such a way that the relation was mediated by both mastery-approach and performance-approach goals.
The main finding of the study is thus that perceived school kindness fosters positive emotions, behaviors, and cognitive strategies related to school activities, and that it does so by avoiding avoidance goals.
In the words of the researchers: “Perhaps, in the positive school environment, students feel psychological safety, so that they are more active and willing to challenge themselves and learn new things instead of worrying about failures or how they are compared to other people.”
Reference: Datu and Park, “Perceived School Kindness and Academic Engagement: The Mediational Roles of Achievement Goal Orientations”, School Psychology International, Vol 40, Issue 5, 2019