Expert Opinion

A sense of belonging

The start of term is now a distant memory and our students are now into the swing of the semester. Education expert, Dr Caroline Bligh, blogs today about finding a sense of belonging in a new community.

The ‘newbie’ students at Leeds Beckett University have already settled into their first year as members of our thriving community of learning. There is a vibrant buzz around which is rather different from the initial surge of fresher’s excitement which was happily audible across the campuses when our students initially set foot in the University.

What is different?

Students are now engaged in friendship groups within their communities of learning and have developed the most important ingredient on the first step to academic success – a sense of belonging. Very quickly the excitable undergraduates have transformed from being freshers into students who already feel part of an overarching community of learning – a tacit learning buzz is evident throughout the campuses as they participate in lectures and seminars, converse together in the ‘Uni’ cafes, whilst walking/talking along the corridors and as they chatter in the outdoor areas.

How is a sense of belonging achieved?

But how is this sense of belonging achieved so readily within such a huge community of learning as our University? As with most successful communities of practice, learning is achieved as a joint enterprise; contributed to and distributed through all its members. Whilst the students are negotiating their way around new friendships and experiences, members of our larger University community (both academic and non-academic) invite ‘newbies’ to become integral members. Our students are actively supported as they fractionally increase their participation in activities both academic and non-academic. It is surely the success of the whole University working as a joint enterprise which leads to each student gaining a sense of belonging and ultimately fulfilling their potential.

May the thriving buzz of our unique learning community continue!

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By Dr Alison Iredale
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