Hello STP! This is Barbara Oswald, Chair of your STP Membership Committee, inviting you to submit a Member Spotlight. To be a future STP Member Spotlight, fill out this friendly form! We randomly select members to highlight each month as they share their STP experiences. We hope to see you in a future column.
So, welcome to Fall semester, 2023! For those who have started already, we hope you’ve had a good beginning. For those getting ready to start, good luck! We hope everyone has a fantastic Fall semester.
One way to be successful this Fall is to foster a sense of belonging in our classrooms and on our campuses. We have long known that feelings of belonging increase persistence and academic achievement (e.g., Silverman (2021); Strayhorn, 2012; 2018), and this is especially important for first-generation and non-traditional college students (Nunn, 2021). A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education highlights the importance of fostering belonging in all students (Lu, 2023).
But what can you as a professor do to foster a sense of belonging in your students this Fall? Here are some quick tips:
· Send a welcome letter before class starts (Pontónde Dutton, 2022). I also like to send personalized emails after the first exam and periodically throughout the semester. I break this up into thirds, so that the top third performing students get one type of letter, the middle third get a second type of letter, and the bottom third get a third type of letter. All are personalized and encouraging, and all include invitations to meet with me.
· Learn students names–for real (Pontónde Dutton, 2022, pronounce their name correctly (Walker, 2021), AND, use their preferred pronouns (Alvarez, 2022). This is almost a “duh” moment….but is it?? I still struggle with this every semester, especially in larger classes. I acknowledge this to my students, make sure they know that I am sincerely trying my best, and ask them to help me in any way they can. I think this goes a long way to making students feel like you are concerned about them as a person, and not just a number in your class. Your LMS might have prompts for students to add phonetic spelling for their names but you can also use a tool like https://www.pronouncenames.com to help.
· Build community (Pontónde Dutton, 2022), by encouraging small- and large-group class discussion. Make sure all students get a voice and feel valued in the conversation (Duong, 2023).
· Use authentic assessments. These are assignments that ask students to apply what they are learning to their own lives. As Duong (2023) notes, these kinds of assignments can make students feel like you care about them personally, and can also decrease use of ChatGPT and other AI to generate answers, an added bonus!
· Ask students how their day is going (Pontónde Dutton, 2022). Listen to their answers, and respond appropriately.
· Always leave time for questions at the beginning and end of class, and invite students early and often to attend office hours (Pontónde Dutton, 2022). You might consider creating a scavenger hunt for prizes, offering extra credit, or providing snacks or other incentives for students who find your office.
We hope you find these tips helpful as you embark on your Fall semester!
Thank you for supporting STP and don’t forget to renew your membership.