Enhancing a sense of belonging in the classroom


Enhancing a sense of belonging in the classroom

August 9, 2023

Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship logo

Dr. Anisa Hansen

Professor of Pharmacy Practice and Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the
College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Drake University

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EAB.

As institutions face decreased enrollments, there is an amplified focus on retention. In the book, College Students’ Sense of Belonging, author Terrell Strayhorn states, “Students who do not feel like they belong rarely stay in college.” Belonging is defined by Carol Goodenow as “A sense of belonging is defined as being accepted, valued, included and encouraged by others in the academic classroom and of feeling oneself to be an important part of the life and activity of class.”

To address this issue, a learning community has been designed to launch in fall 2023, focused on inclusive teaching strategies designed to build community in the classroom. It is known that students who feel like they belong in the classroom receive higher scores and show a higher level of classroom engagement, overall persistence, and a greater overall sense of well-being. This community will be open to twenty faculty and staff that teach. Copies of two books will be provided: Relationship Rich Learning by Leo Lambert and Peter Felton and Inclusive Teaching: Strategies for Promoting Equity in the College Classroom by Kelly A. Hogan and Viji Sathy. The latter book will be the focus of the learning modules.

Feedback for the design of the workshop was gathered from the deputy provost, the justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion team, and the associate provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

This interactive workshop is comprised of six sessions during the semester where faculty and staff that teach will learn inclusive teaching strategies. A reading guide will be provided to all participants with the following sections: questions to consider while reading the material assigned, a framework for action steps, and an area to reflect.

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The six models are described below:

Module 1: Time will be available for participants to introduce themselves and hand out the books and discussion guide. Participants will select a partner to act as both their accountability and peer review partner. Chapters 1-3 are assigned to prepare for discussion in week two. Participants are also asked to bring a current syllabus from a class they teach.

Module 2: Participant discussion on chapters 1-3. Partners will work together to discuss recommendations for syllabi. Chapters 4-5 are assigned to prepare discussion in week three. In addition, partners must schedule a time with each other to peer review a class period (with a focus on inclusion) before the last module.

Module 3: Participant discussion on chapters 4-5. To prepare for the next module, participants will explore a new classroom technique, reflect, and be ready to discuss
with the group. Read chapters 6-7.

Module 4: Participant discussion on chapters 6-7. Discuss reflections and set goals for inclusive practices outside the classroom. The assignment is to have your partner visit your office to assess inclusive office space, using the checklist provided.

Module 5: Revamp a current assignment used in your course.

Module 6: Reflections and next steps

Participants will earn a certificate in inclusive teaching pedagogy from the deputy provost.

In conclusion, perceived outcomes may be an institution-wide support system for providing inclusive classroom environments and an increase in overall retention rates.

A special thanks to the EAB fellowship faculty and fellow learners.

See the fellows' blogs from the capstone projects

Dr. Anisa Hansen and others participated in EAB’s Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship in spring 2023.

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