Focus efforts on deliberately building opportunities for your classroom community to emerge and flourish.
Techniques and Activities to help you explore this practice.
Care - Trust - Community
Think of the community in your classroom as a seed you plant that you must tend for it to grow. In order for it to grow, you have to back up and think about the environment and nutrients it requires. Community emerges among a group of people who have learned to trust one another. But trust doesn’t “just happen” either — trust emerges when people care for each other. Start with care; work towards trust; watch (and tend) your community.
In some cases, your course may exist in a larger context where care or trust already exist. Perhaps you’ve had some students before and built trust together. Perhaps you’re teaching a course in a program where everyone has taken many classes together before. Congratulations! You may be ahead of the game. But keep three things in mind:
- Has everyone in the class experienced the same kinds of previous care/trust with you or their classmates? If not, how do bring them into the fold?
- Even if you have a strong community from day 1, you still need to care and tend for it. Care and trust must continue to be woven through your pedagogy.
- The classroom is not a haven from the real world; it is a part of it. Racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia (etc.) are part of the reality of your class dynamics and will need to be addressed.
Build Community into Your Practice
Some parts of community can feel ephemeral, difficult to pin down, even magical. Suddenly a group of people who were strangers a few weeks ago are suddenly a community — sharing ideas, offering constructive feedback, enjoying each other’s conversation, humor, company.
While this emergence can feel magical, it actually emerges from our own actions, reactions, practices. It’s okay to take a pragmatic approach to all of this and to even define a schedule (and set of guiding values) for your engagement.
Choose Your Tools Wisely
Whether you’re teaching f2f, online, hybrid, or in the middle of a pivot to remote learning, take the time to think about what tools you want to use to communicate with your students and to foster community:
- Consider the kind of engagement and communication you want to encourage, and pick tools that support those.
- Consider inviting your students into the process of choosing tech/tools.
- Keep it simple — if the number of options you’ve chosen or the tools themselves seem overwhelming to you, they will probably overwhelm your students.
- It’s okay to stick with what you know best and you have the most support for.
Build a Communication Schedule
Build yourself a communication schedule to connect with your students. Come up with ways to regularly connect with your students so that they know you care about their success. Build this into your syllabus as part of your social contract with the students.
borrowed from 12 Key Ideas: An Introduction to Teaching Online by Dave Cormier (CC-By)
Choose Two Tools
Choose two tools that you will use in one of your fall courses to communicate and build community in your class. Choose one tool that you know well and have used before. Choose another tool that is new to you but that you think could be helpful with the kind of engagement you want to foster.
Spend time this summer learning and exploring the second tool.
Add a paragraph to your syllabus explaining the tools, why and how you’ll be using them, and inviting students to give you feedback along the way.
Join a Community
If online connection and community seems really unfamiliar and unfeasible to you, spend some time before fall immersing yourself in a community of your own choosing. This can be professional or personal — check out the social media spaces you use for groups related to your interests, ask friends for suggestions, search resources related to your professional organizations for ideas.
Note along the way what it’s like to be a new member of a community. How does the community organize itself and “make rules?” At what point did you start to feel welcome — or if you didn’t, why do you think this is? Hold yourself accountable for engaging and studying this community as a way to understand how digital community building could be related to your own teaching.
Online reading and resources to help dive deeper into this practice.
- Pedagogy of Care: COVID-19 Edition, Maha Bali
- Community Building Online: An Introduction, with Examples from Middlebury
- Building Community in a Virtual Course, K.H. Turner
- Fostering Student Engagement, Georgetown University Guidebook
- Student-Created Open “Textbooks” as Course Communities, Robin DeRosa
- “Fostering Care and Community at a Distance” and “Love Letters and Pen Pals: Community through Correspondance” by Sean Michael Morris
- 30 experiential team-building activities for an online audience, by Michelle Cummings (with more by others here at this link)
- Microaggressions in the Classroom, a short video with many student voices, useful as you explore power and identity in class dynamics.
A larger community of teachers and learners interested in this practice.
Discuss on Twitter
If you are active on Twitter, we encourage you to share your thought and ideas using the #ACEFramework hashtag and the #community hashtag to talk about this practice, in particular.
Join a Meeting
If you are interested in talking to people about the Connection value (for which Foster Classroom Community is an ACE-informed practice), we invite you to our hosted Zoom chats. Chats are scheduled this summer on the following dates:
- Thursday, June 18 from 1:00PM-2:00PM (EDT): Overview of the ACE Framework
- Thursday, July 2 from 1:00PM-2:00PM (EDT): Connection Practices
Submit Your Ideas
If you find yourself working this summer on a project or approach that uses Foster Classroom Community, we invite you to share what you’ve found or created, via the Submit Something button below. If you choose to publicly share your submission, it will immediately become available on this page in the Revisit section. (For particularly compelling submissions, we may also add this to the Explore section of this page.)
Hypothesize with Us
The online annotation tool, Hypothesis, is built into this Web site. Feel free to annotate this (or any page in the ACE Framework) with your own thoughts, critiques, questions, or ideas. You can easily get started with a Hypothesis account (which is free) and learn more about how to use the tool.
Join Our Team
Plymouth State University community members are invited to join our Teams site for the ACE Framework. Feel free to use our discussion channel to ask questions, give suggestions, and point to new resources.
A space for user-submitted ideas, resources, and links related to this practice.