Over three decades of research in a variety of disciplines demonstrates that when learning environments are designed to promote a sense of belonging and support for student learning, students are more likely to take advantage of campus resources to support their success, persist through challenges, and help close outcome gaps by group membership.
The Student Experience Project is drawing on this research base in the fields of social psychology, educational psychology, and brain science, along with feedback from students, and on the ground expertise from instructors, staff and administrators to develop practical approaches that instructors can use in their courses to bolster student engagement and increase equity in academic outcomes. This collection of evidence-based, field-tested resource guides outlines steps that instructors can take in their courses to: promote engagement, increase equity in students’ experiences of their learning environments, and support academic success.
While these resources can be used by individual instructors, early evidence from the Student Experience Project indicates that the change ideas are most effective when used collectively by groups of instructors in a community of practice. The SEP is currently developing a series of toolkits designed to support institutions in implementing change recommendations on a large scale. The first toolkit in the series, which focuses on course preparation and the first day of class, is scheduled to be released November 2021. If you are an administrator who is interested in access to our toolkits, please sign up here for the SEP Newsletter to be notified as resources become available.
Interpersonal and situational cues signal to students whether they belong (or not) in a particular context. These cues differ for students, depending on their group membership (e.g., gender, race, first-generation, low-income). While most students experience some form of belonging uncertainty in college, students from groups that are underrepresented in higher education or negatively stereotyped tend to experience higher rates of belonging uncertainty than others. In this section you will find practice recommendations that promote a sense of social belonging.
A growth mindset is the belief that abilities are malleable and can be improved with effort, feedback, and using effective strategies for learning. In contrast, a fixed mindset is the belief that abilities are innate. When instructors convey a growth mindset about intelligence to students, students are found to experience less identity threat and perform better academically. Although students perceive these beliefs, research shows that these perceptions are quite accurate when compared to instructors' self-reported beliefs. In this section you will find practice recommendations designed to communicate an instructor growth mindset.
Students from negatively stereotyped or underserved groups can question whether faculty and staff may treat them fairly in interactions, grading, and other forms of evaluation. Faculty that communicate and behave in ways that engender trust and a perception of caring can mitigate social identity threat for students from these groups. In this section you will find practice recommendations designed to engender student trust in the instructional team by affirming the use of fair instructional and evaluation practices.
Situational cues can signal that a social identity one holds is either valued or devalued in a particular context. When the situation cues signal that one’s social identities are valued, they feel identity safety. If, however, the situation cues signal that one’s social identities are devalued, they experience identity threat, and one’s identity becomes strongly felt and psychologically central. Learning in environments that support identity safety is associated with higher rates of social belonging and better academic performance among college students. In this section you will find practice recommendations that can help promote identity safety, particularly among students from social groups that are underrepresented or marginalized in higher education.
Feeling self-efficacy - which involves having confidence in and estimation of one's abilities - is important for persistence and success in academic fields. Research indicates that students from different groups can have different levels of self-efficacy when it comes to their abilities, and that the experience of identity threat can contribute to low-levels of self-efficacy among students. In this section you will find practice recommendations that can help bolster students' self-efficacy.
Social connectedness refers to the creation of bonding relationships. Feelings of connectedness are a contributing factor to students' social belonging and are essential elements of student satisfaction, academic success, and retention in their own right. Students who feel a sense of social connectedness are more likely to have better social and academic experiences during college, including higher emotional wellbeing, and better health. In this section you will find practice recommendations that can help encourage students' connectedness with instructors and peers.
The SEP Practices Library has been developed by CTC (© 2020) through the Student Experience Project.
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