A child in the middle years who is supported and nurtured by an optimal school environment will view school as a safe, positive space that satisfies their growing need for autonomy by seeking their input and including their voice in school and classroom decision making. A thriving child feels like they have a valued place and role in the school and that the school is free from harassment and bullying.
When children have positive school experiences, they are more likely to feel a sense of belonging, feel more motivated and engaged in class and achieve higher academic performance.
Measures of School Experiences
Children in the middle years spend a lot of their time at school and these experiences are a critical predictor for their personal well-being and academic success. The MDI asks children to reflect on their academic potential and to provide information on school climate, belonging, and their personal experiences with bullying. See theTechnical Guide for the list of questions for all dimensions and additional detail on scoring the MDI.
A child develops beliefs about their own academic ability, including their perception of themselves as a student. This is their academic self-concept and influences how interested and confident they feel at school. The MDI asks them to consider their ability to learn new things, do a good job on school work, and whether they feel that even if the work is hard, they can learn it.
School Climate & School Belonging
School climate is the overall tone of the school environment, including the way teachers and students interact and how students treat each other. Children’s comfort in their learning environment affects their motivation, enjoyment of school and ability to pay attention in class. Positive interactions between teachers and students result in students feeling greater happiness, contentment and calmness. Students benefiting from a positive school climate even report an increased commitment to learning and show improved reading comprehension.
Victimization and Bullying
Victimization and bullying can increase the risk for a lifetime of social, emotional and mental health challenges. Bullying is a distinct form of aggressive behaviour in which one child or a group of children act intentionally and repeatedly to cause harm or embarrassment to another child or group of children who have less power. Negative thoughts continue long after bullying stops.
The MDI questionnaire asks children about their experiences with four different types of bullying:
- Cyber – someone used the computer or text messages to exclude, threaten, embarrass you, or to hurt your feelings.
- Physical – someone hit, shoved, or kicked you, spat at you, beat you up, or damaged or took your things without permission.
- Social – someone left you out, excluded you, gossiped and spread rumours about you, or made you look foolish.
- Verbal – someone called you names, teased, embarrassed, threatened you, or made you do things you didn’t want to do.
Focus on developing prosocial behaviours (such as empathy, sharing, cooperation) at school. When children see kind behaviours in students, teachers and staff, they report their school environments as being safe and encouraging places to learn.1