Fostering Everyday Belonging

This year, we’ve been focusing on belonging as the center of our student success efforts. How do we ensure that every member of our Grand View community knows they belong here? How do we radically welcome students into our community of learners, and how do create the conditions in which they are not only acknowledged, but valued for who they authentically are? Belonging is a powerful—and essential—feature of any of the answers to these questions. But what does belonging look like? How is it operationalized on a regular, day-to-day basis in the places where students spend a significant portion of their time: their classrooms?

Now that the semester is fully up and running, it’s worth asking ourselves if the learning spaces (face-to-face, online, lab, and co-curricular) we’ve created for our students are places which encourage a sense of belonging. A big part of how we might be doing that is through the seemingly simple and routine things we do on an everyday basis when it comes to our classrooms. The following are just some of the ways we cna cultivate a sense of belonging on an everyday basis for our students:

  • Learn students’ names! Perhaps the most important way we foster belonging is to know who our students are, and call them by their preferred names. Of course, it takes a bit to learn them all, but letting our students know that we’re doing so, and that it’s important to us to know their names, is an essential part of our practice.
  • Be a few minutes early to class and talk with the students who are already there; acknowledge and greet your students as they enter.
  • Be available, and easy to contact. How responsive are we to student emails, for example? Consider letting students know the time frame in which they can expect a response from you (24 hours is a reasonable suggestion). If you’re trying to encourage them to come to office hours, one suggestion is to rename “office hours” to something like “student hours” or “open hours.” This can help emphasize the purpose of the time, and to invite students to take advantage of the opportunity to meet with you.
  • Be clear with your expectations, and convey to students that you know they are capable of meeting them. This might involve conversations about, for example, how you grade their work and what the purposes of your assignments are, specifically. This is all to the good; any chance we have to be more transparent about the courses we’ve designed is one we ought to take.

Creating a sense of belonging for our students is a crucial part of helping them succeed at Grand View, and there is a great deal we can do to advance that goal in our approaches to teaching and learning. Whether it’s from the interactions with other students, or their engagement with us as instructors, paying attention to even the seemingly routine parts of our practice can produce large dividends. We have the power to shape the nature of this academic community, and that power is in many ways the sum total of the choices we make about everyday matters relating to our learning spaces and the people within them. Let’s use that power thoughtfully and well.


THIS WEEK IN CETL:

Tuesday, Jan. 21 ♦ Understanding Your IDEA Results
11:00-11:30   Individual Faculty Results
11:30-12:00   Data for Department Chairs
CETL (Rasmussen 208)

Wednesday, Jan. 22 ♦ Lunch and Learn: Cool Blackboard Tricks
11:00-11:30 in the CETL

Full descriptions for these sessions can be found on this site’s Calendar, or in the scheduling announcement posted HERE.

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