Boosting Student Belonging: Four Strategies Inside and Outside the Classroom

October 23, 2023

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Title: 2023 Listening to Learners: Increasing Belonging In and Out of the Classroom

Authors: C. Shaw, R. Bhardwaj, K. Condon, L. NeJame, S. Martin, J. Rich, N. Janson, G. Bryant, and K. Fox

Source: Tyton Partners

Research has shown that students’ feelings of belonging have a positive impact on their academic performance, persistence, program completion, and overall well-being. Expanding on the existing body of research in this field, Tyton Partners’ latest publication, Listening to Learners, explores strategies for colleges and their stakeholders to enhance students’ sense of belonging, both inside and outside the classroom.

These strategies aim to increase students’ likelihood of staying and succeeding academically. In March 2023, Tyton Partners conducted a survey involving 2,056 students, 1,748 instructors, 1,493 front-line support staff, and over 500 administrators from various two- and four-year institutions, including both public and private ones.

Tyton Partners identified two methods that institutions can use to foster a sense of belonging among students in the classroom. These methods involve implementing evidence-based teaching practices such as active learning and leveraging digital tools to create a sense of community and promote collaboration. For example, an instructor might use an engagement tool to run a simulation and then let students have peer discussions about the experience.

To enhance students’ sense of belonging outside the classroom, Tyton Partners recommended increasing awareness and utilization among students of available support services such as academic advising, financial aid resources, and mental health services. This could be achieved through targeted, active, and ongoing methods such as in-class announcements, automated alerts, and text/email campaigns. Institutions also should encourage students to engage more with these services by normalizing the act of asking for help, especially for first-generation students; using more welcoming terms such as “student walk-in hours” instead of “office hours;” and creating physical and digital co-location.

To effectively implement these ideas, Tyton Partners advised institutions to:

  • Provide training and support to instructors in course design to ensure the consistent and transparent use of evidence-based teaching practices. Additionally, they should integrate study aids, collaboration tools, and other digital learning tools into instruction.
  • Proactively disseminate information about the accessibility of support services to students throughout the academic year.
  • Equip support providers with the necessary tools to pursue a holistic approach to advising by integrating data effectively.
  • Focus on recruiting, preparing, and retaining academic advisors from diverse backgrounds.

To read the full report, click here.

—Nguyen DH Nguyen

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