How Do You Track Learner Belonging? Here’s a Tool to Try!

I’m pretty excited for this tool. This was co-developed with my thinking partner Shawna Parkinson. So, big credit to her for this initial big-picture idea. 

Whiteboard photo
Speaking of “big picture,” this is our whiteboard while we figured out the tool. Read on to see how the tool eventually landed. 

Why Belonging?

We’ve been working with teachers at Mason High School to create a stronger sense of belonging. It’s a big school. Last year, students were online or masked up in-person. This year, there is an air of cautious optimism. The time to purposefully design a sense of community is now. 

In 2017, OECD’s report on Students’ sense of belonging at school and their relations with teachers stated the following:

Adolescents who feel that they are part of a school community are more likely to perform better academically and be more motivated in school (Battistich et al., 1997; Goodenow, 1993). When children and adolescents feel a connection with school, they are less likely to engage in risky and antisocial behaviour (Catalano et al., 2004; Hawkins and Weis, 1985).

Belonging can be a pretty abstract concept. Whether or not students feel a sense of belonging can vary from day-to-day or even moment-to-moment based on a whole host of factors. A comment on social media or something someone says in the hallway could totally throw off a learner’s sense of belonging in a single, hot moment.Shawna and I wanted to develop a reflective tool where teachers can track belonging opportunities in a classroom community. Teachers may not be able to control or influence the total belonging picture, but we hypothesize that this tool will help them focus on SOME of the ways they can have a big impact.

Belonging Tracker – Free Download

Let’s call this thing a prototype. It’s not perfect. It’s SOMETHING to work with and try. This may be a great tool to use in teacher workshops or for teachers to use individually. When working individually, teachers may be able to visualize their learning community: the more the graph is colored, the more opportunities for students to feel like they belong. In a teacher workshop, one can imagine a student’s sense of belonging within the whole school community being visually represented. If you use this tool, please let me know

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