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 means that within a community, we feel seen, heard, affirmed in our identities, appreciated for our strengths, and supported in our struggles. 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 sense of belonging through their pedagogy—how they structure students’ interactions with the academic content and with one another.

Session 1: What does it mean to belong to a learning community? In this session, we will  explore our own experiences of belonging and non-belonging in learning communities. Then, we’ll collaboratively define what it means to belong to a learning community. We’ll do this work using protocols you can use with your students to foster community and belonging in the classroom. (2 hours)

Session 2: How can educators build learning communities where everyone belongs? (Part A). In this session, we’ll examine the first two elements of a pedagogy of belonging: inclusive materials and connective prompts. We’ll learn how to choose materials that help students see themselves in their learning and discover new experiences and perspectives. Then, we’ll learn how to write prompts that help students connect the content to their lives. (2 hours)

Session 3: How can educators build learning communities where everyone belongs? (Part B). This session focuses on the remaining two elements of a pedagogy of belonging: collaborative protocols and affirming assignments. We will first focus on how protocols structure students’ interactions with the content and one another such that they contribute equitably, listen appreciatively, and do satisfying work together. Then, we’ll explore how to design assignments that help students use their learning to create things that matter—to them personally and in the world. (2 hours)