This is the final piece in a series of three blog posts about building community in the classroom. We accept as a given the value of community to learning. Here is some of the research that supports our stance:
Sharla Berry, “Teaching to Connect: Community Building Strategies for the [Synchronous] Virtual Classroom”
bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress and Teaching Community
Kimberlee Ratliffe, “Building Rapport and Creating a Sense of Community: Are Relationships Important in the Online Classroom?”
Sobonfu Somé, Spirit of Intimacy: Ancient Teachings in the Ways of Relationships
As with other aspects of course design, planning for community building must consider issues of accessibility, equity and inclusion that are grounded in the contexts of student population, campus, and locality. Community activities should not force students to reveal their protected class information, their trauma, or their disabilities.
Consider also how you can link your assignments in a progression that requires each participant to seek out the knowledge of another.
These suggestions and the linked resources are not a definitive list. And not all of these ideas will work in every classroom. We hope that our ideas inspire you to create rituals of community that suit you and your students on your (virtual) campus.
- Event/Gallery/Art Walk/Read Aloud day for sharing final projects with feedback for students, staff and faculty to see and celebrate each other’s work.
- A good-bye message from the faculty member to the course or individual handwritten Thank You cards to each student (within reason) summarizing your appreciation of what energy they brought to the class
- Invite students to post an image, quote, poem, moment etc of #whatIbringnow discussion to a Twitter thread or Slack channel.
- Something that asks students to reflect on their learning AND the role that their classmates played in that learning (thoughts?)
- A place and or time to share contact info or social media handles (optional)
- Creating a private social group for the cohort to engage with each other after class has ended….WhatsApp, Facebook, etc
- Students write letters, tips and advice to future students about the course: tips for success, what resonated most with them, etc.
- External facing assignment -- tweet thread with “what we’ve learned”; drafting and sending op-eds to local newspapers or letters to political representatives
- Host a party, do a day hike, day excursion or other social event where students do not have to focus on work but can begin and continue to nurture interpersonal relationships they've made in class