Imagine a student walking into your classroom for the first time.
As you welcome students to the start of a new school year, try this practice to help cultivate a sense of belonging in your classroom. Take a moment to reflect on the visuals and resources displayed throughout the room. Do they represent your students? Can your students see themselves in your classroom?
What cues does your classroom send to students?
Research shows that every day students—like all of us—consciously and subconsciously take cues from their environment that suggest they either belong or do not (Murphy & Taylor, 2012; Murphy, Steele, & Gross, 2007; also see The Mindset Kit). When students have questions about their belonging, they search for cues in their environment to signal whether or not they fit in and are valued by others at school (Romero, 2015).
In one study, Allison Master and her colleagues (2015) found that just displaying more gender neutral objects (for example, art posters instead of science fiction posters) in a classroom positively affected students’ academic aspirations and interests. Research also suggests that involving students as partners in design and decision-making has a positive effect on student engagement and learning.
Inspired to try this practice?
The purpose of this practice is to help you create a more caring classroom for your students by guiding you through a process of self-reflection on the physical classroom space. Look at the classroom from your students’ perspective and consider if they see themselves in the space. Reflect on the visuals in your classroom and identify simple changes you can make to ensure all students feel a sense of belonging.
Here’s an overview of what you can expect and what you will need as you plan:
- Who should try it? This practice can be adapted for K-12 students.
- When you should you try it? This practice is best suited to try at the start of the school year.
- What materials are needed? You will not need any specific materials. You’ll just need to identify a time when you can be alone in your classroom for self-reflection.
- How much time is needed? This practice will take 30 minutes to complete.
If you’re ready to get started, download the toolkit. Follow the prompts in our toolkit to reflect and think about how your students can be better represented in your classroom space.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.