Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Michael D. Toland


Research suggests sense of belonging in academic contexts influences student academic outcomes and well-being. Instruments (i.e., surveys, questionnaires) developed to measure sense of belonging mainly focus on the experience of students in middle grades. Few instruments measure sense of belonging experienced by postsecondary students, despite many colleges and universities seeking to improve retention, persistence, and graduation by addressing this complex construct. Furthermore, the rapid growth of online courses necessitates and presents an opportunity to employ psychometric investigations to explore the sense of belonging experienced by both face-to-face and online students. The first of the two studies conducted for this dissertation extends a brief instrument originally tested on an adolescent sample for use among postsecondary students, testing for differential item functioning based on various groupings, including but not limited to degree level, gender, and ethnicity. The second study investigates if it is possible to similarly measure students’ sense of belonging to other students within the same course in face-to-face and online delivery methods using a common instrument. Employing modern measurement strategies, these studies demonstrate the value of rigorous analyses of internal structure to produce validity evidence for practical and reliable instruments—reflective of the diversity in student identities and learning contexts in higher education institutions—to measure postsecondary students’ sense of belonging.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)