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 is the fact and feeling of being seen, heard, affirmed, respected, appreciated, and supported within a community. 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 the group sees and appreciates us for who we are.

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 students engage with the 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 classroom rituals create a foundation of trust, equity, curiosity, and humility. Then, we’ll discuss how learning experiences that have personal and cultural relevance in students lives create a sense of belonging. (2 hours)

Session 2: Learning Together. In this session, we’ll examine four elements of lessons that foster belonging: (1) eliciting meaningful contributions from every learner, (2) ensuring all learners have opportunities to share their ideas and be listened to, (3) fostering learners’ appreciation for themselves and one another, and (4) facilitating the use of the learning for values-consistent action. We will practice protocols that bring these four elements to academic learning. (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. This session is about how to design assessment tasks that empower every student to connect their academic skills and knowledge to sources of meaning in their lives. After discussing specific strategies that set every student up for success on assessment tasks, we will explore how we define success and how students can define success for themselves based on their own values. (2 hours)