A Manifesto for Fostering Student Course Belonging

Note: This CPD activity is designed in two parts: self or peer development followed by an active workshop.

This first section is intended for self-study based on a selection of readings and a guided peer discussion. It can also be used as a pre-workshop ‘flipped’ activity for the second section, a CPD active workshop. Email the Teaching Essentials team if you would like to arrange a workshop for your department or course team. Workshops will be customised to reflect your needs and context.

What is “A Manifesto for Fostering Student Course Belonging” about?

Thinking about fostering student course belonging is a way of thinking about student satisfaction and retention. However, fostering student belonging on our courses is challenging. This session focuses, not so much on what we teach, but how we teach and how our students learn, and how this can be rewarding for all.


To bring together an argument for developing aspects of your course that will lead to a stronger sense of course belonging amongst your students.

Intended learning outcomes

You will,

  • understand what student course belonging means and why this matters to your academic practice;
  • develop a range of strategies that you can deploy with your course team for improving student engagement and their sense of course belonging;
  • learn about what others do in the University to foster course belonging.

Part 1. Self-study: what to do

  1. Find out about Fostering a sense of belonging. First read through the page and then go back to follow one or two of the links from this page. If the first step is being explicit with students about the importance of belonging within your course design, what is the next step for you in your practice? (15 minutes)
  2. Discuss this with colleagues. Do you agree?
  3. Bring these thoughts to the active workshop. If you are not attending the workshop, work up a ’10 Steps to Developing Course Belonging’ paper for discussion at your next course meeting. You can refer to the literature referenced at the end of this page.
  4. Look at what you say about your course – Ask your colleagues and students: “What do you think is important about being on our course?” Or, find statements and student quotes from the prospectus or other course documents.

Part 2. Active workshop session

(2 hours recommended)

Nb: Bring a laptop or tablet so that you can construct your manifesto. You will probably use PowerPoint to do this.

In the workshop, we will use an active learning approach to discover and develop our understanding of course belonging and how we can develop it through our academic practice.

Before the session, ensure you have read about Fostering a sense of belonging and followed links to resources as indicated in the Part 1 pre-workshop activity above. Bring information from point 4 – what you, your colleagues and students say about your course.

Introductory activity

(20 minutes)

To warm up, the session will begin by discussing our respective answers to the concluding propositions in the linked paper about modeling professional behaviours and the assertion that academics can foster belonging in the classroom through,

  • the use of professional language;
  • the sources of information they cite;
  • the selection of case studies, examples, anecdotes and literature;
  • the professional attitudes, protocols and values they adopt;
  • the humour they share;
  • their common ‘ways of being’.

Please come armed with one or two ideas about how your practice models professional identity. Stories about humour are particularly welcomed!

Main activity – A Manifesto to Advocate Belonging

Working in small groups, you will each develop A Manifesto for Course Belonging – essentially a ’10 Steps to Developing Course Belonging’ argument you can use for advocating the development of course belonging with your course team and student body. The manifesto will reflect the actual context of your subject and the things that you believe are important to course identity and belonging – this is why you need to bring statements and quotes about what you already say.

The rest of the session will involve you analysing,

  • what you already say about your course;
  • things people actually do that foster belonging;
  • things you hear other people say in the session;
  • ideas you find in the literature and handouts we will have in the workshop

Constructing your manifesto

Constructing a manifesto is a good way of beginning to put a case together.

  1. A manifesto is composed of a series of bold, ambitious headlines or proclamations! Aim for about 10 proclamations to begin with, like “Act in unison!!!” (Three exclamations help set the right tone) The proclamations are like sketching out your ideas on your canvas.
  2. With about 10 in place, you will then consider the importance of each. You may decide you need less or more (probably less).
  3. In the notes field, generate words – answer, “why is the proclamation needed?”

Using the workshop handouts and what you know about your course, refine your manifesto.