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A Pedagogy of Belonging

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Submitted By holmes86
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A Pedagogy of Belonging

Mitchell Beck and James Malley

ABSTRACT: The psychological sense that one belongs in a classroom and school community is considered a necessary antecedent to the successful learning experience. In an era when traditional sources of belonging have diminished due to changing family and community demographics, the school plays an increasingly important role in meeting this need. There is evidence that conventional classroom practices fail to engender a sense of belonging, especially among at-risk students. Indeed, conventional practices may exacerbate feelings of rejection and alienation and place these students at higher risk for dropping out, joining gangs, or using drugs. Schools can increase the sense of belonging for all students by emphasizing the importance of the teacher-student relationship and by actively involving all students in the life of the classroom and the school community. Specific examples of programs that promote a sense of belonging for students are discussed.

To Belong: To have a proper, appropriate, or suitable place. To be naturally associated with something. To fit into a group naturally — Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary

Can children succeed in a school in which they do not feel they belong? Most children fail in school not because they lack the necessary cognitive skills, but because they feel detached, alienated, and isolated from others and from the educational process. When children feel rejected by others, they either internalize the rejection and learn to hate themselves or externalize the rejection and learn to hate others. In East of Eden (1952), John Steinbeck described it as the story of the human soul:

The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell of fears. I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And...

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