Dissertation

Building connection in a broken system: how addressing shame and disconnection increases student achievement and belonging

The purpose of this project is to address shame and the fear of disconnection in P-12 schools and how that disconnection has the power to negatively impact students. Research by Brown, 2016 has demonstrated that shame and disconnection in school leads to a decline in grades and academics, decline in attitude and mental health, and an increase in depression and school violence. Early experiences of shame can become the basis for negative self-experience and negative self-evaluation. Shame arises when a student has been criticized, judged or viewed negatively by others. Shame responses can display as withdrawal designed to self-protect by limiting possible attacks or rejection from peers. Research by Xavier, Pinto Gouveia, and Cunha, 2016 has shown that when a student experiences themselves as existing in a negative context in the minds of others, they may engage in internal shaming and self-blaming resulting in a hostile relationship with themselves. Students with an internal relationship that is characterized by external shame, self-hatred and fear of self-compassion present increased trouble with peers, increased levels of depressive symptoms and more frequent instances of non-suicidal self-injury (Xavier, Pinto Gouveia, & Cunha, 2016).

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