College Students

Building a Pedagogy of Belonging

For CLASSROOM TEACHERS of all academic subjects in grades 4-12, as well as department chairs and academic administrators

Belonging means being seen, heard, affirmed, supported, and successful within a group. A basic human need, belonging is different from fitting in. Fitting in means we hide, diminish, change, or ignore parts of ourselves in order to be in a group. Belonging means we can embody our identities within an authentic community.

Creating a sense of belonging means more than doing an occasional community-building activity. While such activities can be fun, they can send the implicit message that community is something that happens separate and apart from the “real” business of school: the academic learning. This workshop series shows educators how to foster a deep and genuine sense of belonging through their pedagogy—how they structure students’ interactions with the academic content and with one another.

Session 1: Being Together. After collaboratively defining what it means to belong to a learning community, we’ll discuss how to establish a classroom community where everyone belongs. We’ll explore how learning materials that have personal and cultural relevance in students lives create a sense of belonging. Then, we’ll discuss how classroom rituals create a foundation of trust, equity, and interdependence. (2 hours)

Session 2: Learning Together. In this session, we’ll examine two key elements of lessons that foster belonging: prompts that elicit meaningful contributions from every learner, and protocols that ensure all learners listen to one another. We will practice writing contribution prompts and using listening protocols so we’re fully equipped to bring these elements to our lessons. (2 hours)

Session 3: Working Together. We’ll discuss the differences between group learning and group work, and we’ll share some of our own positive and negative experiences with group work. Then, we’ll practice protocols that empower students to bring their own values to their actions and interactions when working in a group. (2 hours)

Session 4: Succeeding Together. From the teacher’s perspective, an assessment task is a product or performance that shows them what students know and can do. However, from the student’s perspective, this same product or performance can be meaningful work. This session is about how to design assessment tasks that connect to sources of meaning and vitality in students’ lives, so the task itself becomes a source of meaning and vitality. (2 hours)