Social connectedness has a direct effect on college student retention, according to Allen, Robbins, Casillas, and Oh (2008). Evidence also suggests that it has a positive correlation with achievement motivation (Walton, Cohen, Cwir, & Spencer, 2012), which may impact academic achievement. Social connectedness has also proved to be an important factor in maintaining student retention rates (Allen et al., 2008). Research suggests that supportive faculty members can have a significant positive impact on a student’s intention to persist after the first year (Shelton, 2003). You can help your students by connecting with them or by helping them connect with each other!
- On the first day of class, use a survey to get to know students. Ask about their backgrounds, interests, strengths, needs and other topics.
- Use the survey information to make adjustments to teaching course content.
- Learn the preferred names of your students.
- Consider sharing your pronouns and invite students to theirs, if they would like. The optional invite is important for those who are new to this or who are gender non- conforming and not ready/ have the safety to identify themselves.
- Get out from behind the podium or desk and move among the students. If you use a tablet that connects to the projector, you can allow students to write on the tablet themselves to show how they would solve a problem or answer a question.
- Incorporate welcoming rituals at the start of class. (See sidebar.)
- Share personal anecdotes.
- Share personal connections to content—areas where you struggled, concepts you were surprised to learn, etc.
- Close each class with something positive. For example, have students share something they learned or something they’re interested in learning more about.
- Use various forms of cooperative or collaborative learning. More information about collaborative learning can be found through Cornell University’s Center for Teaching Innovation, including specific examples.
“I like to go in early and talk with students before class starts. We don’t talk about class content. We just talk about life stuff. It makes you more human in their eyes. I also like to stand outside the classroom door and say hi to students or tease and joke with them as they’re walking by to other classes. These small things build connections between me and students.”
Incorporating "Welcoming Rituals" at the start of class
- Smile and greet students.
- Carry on informal conversations before class.
- Play music before class. Allow students to choose the tunes by creating a class playlist.
- Ask students how they are doing.
- Start class with a check-in activity such as Rose, Thorn, Bud:
- Rose: A highlight, success, small win, or something positive that happened.
- Thorn: A challenge you experienced or something you can use more support with.
- Bud: New ideas that have blossomed or something you are looking forward to knowing more about or experiencing.
- You could also do the above as a brief writing activity and/or peer conversations. Other brief writing activities could incorporate a well-being experience such as one new or good thing that a student experienced over the week, content that they found important, or connections to content such as an aha! moment.
- Incorporate time for students to review homework in pairs or cooperative groups
- Prioritize time for students to bring up any questions or concerns from previous classes.
“I think learning would improve…if everybody worked together…if everybody’s competing against each other, then everyone wants to keep everything to themselves. Being able to study in groups would help with well-being and being socially connected.” – Student