Understand the concept of Belonging in an RMIT context
Identify a range of strategies to incorporate Belonging into your program
Implement techniques to support Belonging in your course
What is Belonging?
Belonging @ RMIT is defined as a basic human need and expressed as “a feeling or sensation of connectedness, the experience of mattering or feeling cared about, accepted, respected, valued by, and important to the group”. This is important for both students and staff.
Students who feel a sense of belonging are more likely to succeed at university and in life. Therefore, RMIT continues to focus on providing student experiences which foster a sense of belonging, both in curriculum, as extra-curricular activities and through initiatives that support our curriculum.
Five drivers of student belonging at RMIT are:
- Learning Experiences
- Social Networks
- Physical and Digital Spaces
- Extra-curricular Activities
- Student Services
Source: Belonging curriculum
Why do you need to know this?
The benefits for students of actively developing a sense of Belonging include:
- supporting their participation and assisting in integrating students from diverse backgrounds, circumstances and cultures
- enhancing student satisfaction and retention rates.
- contextualising the content and activities within the curriculum
- helping develop a distinctive RMIT student experience.
Some practical ways to create and support Belonging with and for your students
“Belonging for me is about making sure we can utilise the diversity and creativity that exists in our classrooms to advance our understandings of the disciplines and profession. When students (often from socially disadvantaged and culturally diverse backgrounds) don’t feel like they belong, they don’t engage, and everyone misses out on wonderfully rich and alternative perspectives. Belonging isn’t just about BBQs and end of year pub crawls, but about inclusive practices that have far reaching effects well into the future.” Dr Rachel Wilson, School of Media and Communication
Applying a Belonging ethos can help you build rigour in your classrooms by ensuring all students feel included and confident to contribute to conversations.
It is worth noting that most suggestions fall under general ‘good teaching’. However, if you apply a Belonging lense it opens ways to enhance activities that enable vital interaction and engagement for students.
At a program level
- Design a holistic belonging approach/map for your program. Create opportunities for students to engage with each other, the university, their discipline and the industry.
- Belonging is also important for staff as it generates opportunities for program teaching teams to connect over the semester e.g., pre semester planning, mid semester catch-up and end of semester review. Remember, where possible, include sessional staff so they feel part of the program team.
- Identify key opportunities to engage students in the program community such as orientation, industry events, end of year presentations.
- Connect with and encourage your student to take part in discipline clubs and society and student life activities
- Don’t forget not all students start in year 1, semester 1 – ensure that whenever new students join the program, they are given opportunities to get to know the rest of their cohort.
At a course level
- Provide structured opportunities for students (both within the classroom and beyond) to get to know one another throughout the semester
- Discuss and negotiate course expectations with students. Issues may include attendance, online etiquette, behaviour, phone etiquette, cameras on or off. This will require adaptation depending on the delivery mode
- Learn and use your students’ names. When face to face, name tags can be helpful. If online, check that their name identifier is what they prefer to be called.
- Provide clear guidance and instructions for the course in your Canvas shell
- Incorporate opportunities for students to engage with each other and the course content. Design collaborative learning activities into your course delivery
- Link what students are doing in class and assessment to what they will be expected to do in industry. This helps them start to make links between their learning and their industry.
- Demonstrate ongoing concern for students’ personal and academic wellbeing. If you haven’t seen or heard from a student for a couple of weeks check in to see they’re ok. Remember students have many pressures outside their studies, such as family, work, caring, money issues. Make interventions where appropriate
- Link students into services that can support them e.g., Wellbeing services, Library, Study support. This information is provided in many places, but course coordinators can provide this information in a ‘just in time’ manner.
Support for Belonging activities
- Contact your School based Belonging lead
- Belonging Toolkit for OLT Environments, Developed by Dr Ella Chorazy, School of Media and Communication, RMIT University
- For teams interested in mapping Belonging activities across the program contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- For support developing course level curriculum-based Belonging activities contact email@example.com