In teaching

University lectures and academic writing can be daunting for new and returning students. Acknowledging this and demystifying academic activities can reduce the sense of alienation and increase belonging. For some students walking into a lecture theatre or seminar room for the first time may be a huge step. Consider how you can make the transition to formal teaching spaces less daunting. What can you do to enable your students to successfully navigate these spaces?

There is value in stopping a minute when you arrive on campus or in a new educational space, and being happy that you’ve achieved something amazing already. Everybody that starts studying at University holds that shared experience of stepping into the unknown, we all start from a place of not understanding and not having confidence.

How can you cultivate belonging whilst teaching? 

Creating belonging in small groups is often easier than in larger groups. Students often feel more at ease within a small group.

I’m happy in smaller groups – students and staff are friendly

But there are ways to facilitate a sense of belonging in large groups – here are some tips: 

  • Ask students to help co-create reading lists by suggesting items they’ve read, perhaps on social media
  • Consider student-led formative assessment design, where individuals create their own assignments in small groups
  • Assign students to discussion groups and have each student in more than one group. This increases their friendship-building opportunities
  • Help facilitate topic-driven student-led study groups
  • Start online sessions early if you can. This encourages informal chat
  • Seek regular feedback about the pace and clarity of your teaching
  • Follow up on absences – consider routinely taking a register

We get to know course mates well in the regular lab sessions