Promoting Student Engagement: Building community in the classroom

Learning is a dynamic process in which we make meaning out of new information as connected to what we already know. Learning is also often a social process, as students feel more engaged in classrooms in which they know they are welcomed and contributing member of the community. But how do we build community? Researchers have provided us with some building blocks to do so:

  • Pronounce names correctly: Names are often one of the first words we recognize as children. They are given by our caretakers in remembrance of revered family members and in hopes that the meanings or qualities of the name will be imbued in the children. As such, names are personal! One strategy for learning students’ correct pronunciations is asking them to phonetically spell their name. Once you do so, ask the student to say it, and then practice it in front of the student. If you make a mistake, apologize, and try again. If you use Canvas, you can ask students to provide a video introduction. Read more strategies for learning how to pronounce names via the Getting Names Right: It’s Personal web post.
  • Promote civility: How can one feel welcome and learn in an environment if there are disruptions that stem from a lack of consideration and respect? It is not too late to add a statement to your syllabus that clarifies expectations for behavior. The Mindful and Learner Centered Syllabus Checklist includes examples of inclusive, professional and mutual respect statements, including links to resources for instructors, staff, and students. All of this may be found on CELT’s Creating an Inclusive Classroom website . Remember, if you do update your syllabus, be sure to inform your students in a timely fashion.
  • Be consciously inclusive: We know from decades of research that the frequency of faculty-student contact inside and outside of the classroom promotes student motivation, perseverance, and success. When you enter the class, do you welcome the students? As possible, arrive to class a few minutes early and plan to remain in class until the last student leaves. Ask students if they are encountering any difficulties with the assignments or the technology. Let them know something about yourself and how you entered the field. Consciously decide to be inclusive and speak with as many students as you can, not just the ones that consistently raise their hands.

Many of us spend considerable time considering the design of our courses, determining the knowledge and outcomes we want students to leave our classes with so that they are prepared for their next steps in their academic and professional careers. We spend time designing effective activities and assignments that students can show evidence of their learning. But how many of us spend time in properly getting to know and learning who the students in our classes are?

You can gain more ways to ensure your learning environment is designed to support and include all students by participating in CELT’s Conversation on Teaching Inclusively or the Inclusive Classroom Faculty Development Workshop via CELT’s Inclusive Classroom Programs webpage.

All the best!

Sara Marcketti, Interim Director

Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

Full Teaching Tip

View the published CELT Teaching Tip: Promoting Student Engagement: Building community in the classroom (January 18, 2018 – Constant Contact) website.

Print Version

Prefer a Print version? If you would prefer to view the Teaching Tip as a printable document with web addresses, download the CELT Teaching Tip January 18, 2018 (PDF)