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Belonging and teaching and learning

[I] have had experience where I literally understood nothing due to the fast paced nature of teaching but also some very positive experience with patient and clear teaching.

[I] have had the first-hand experience of not seeing myself reflected in the has meant that academic work has appeared inaccessible to me.

Why is this important for belonging?

University lectures, understanding academic expectations, 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. It is important to consider how to make the transition to formal teaching spaces less daunting. 

What can we do? 

  • Create a space where students feel comfortable to ask questions. Genuine conversations around mistakes being normal and an important part of the learning process can help some students to feel more confident in asking questions
  • Facilitate activities that allow students to develop a better understanding of individual difference so that they can work together in a more compassionate way and avoid stereotyping others
  • Use pedagogic approaches that encourage students to interact as much as possible. Active learning is one such approach that can support students in building relationships in the teaching space. Active learning PDF (9.9MB) considers the process of learning. It emphasises what students do to learn and how they think about what they do
  • Ensure that teaching approaches and activities are inclusive so that all students can feel like they are respected and valued. Learn more about embedding inclusivity in teaching and learning
  • Facilitate conversations about expectations for academic work so that expectations are clear. Allow space for students to discuss and reflect on their learning and their understanding of what is expected of them. This can allow elements of the hidden curriculum to become unhidden. Find out more on the UoL hidden curriculum Sharepoint page
  • Assign students to small groups for discussions during lectures. Creating belonging in small groups is often easier than in larger groups and students often feel more at ease within a small group
  • During lectures and seminars, facilitate the questioning of norms, assumptions around dominant knowledge. Encourage students to question the origins of knowledge bases and dominant ideologies. Doing this can support students not only in developing their critical thinking abilities, but can help recognise historical biases and imbalances, and allow some students to feel they are reflected more in what is learned. Find out more about the approach to decolonising at Leeds , as well as resources that can support its implementation
  • Assign students to different discussion groups at different stages during the semester/academic year . This increases their friendship-building opportunities
  • Help facilitate topic-driven student-led study groups
  • Design learning activities which allow students to draw from their own backgrounds, knowledge and experience
  • Seek regular feedback about the pace and clarity of your teaching
  • Follow up on absences – consider routinely taking a register