While this toolkit was developed in partnership with the Faculty of Arts, any faculty interested in building positive classroom communities and fostering a sense of belonging will find this toolkit useful.
Building Connections in the Classroom
A collaborative initiative between the Faculty of Arts and TLS, this collection of tools is designed for instructors in the Faculty of Arts, but can be used by instructors in any faculty at McGill who want support for building communities in their classrooms. This Toolkit also aims to showcase the expertise of instructors in the Arts faculty who are already using their own strategies for classroom community-building.
The tools are divided into four sections:
- Course Design: This section includes tools to incorporate into your course design and delivery, exploring three definitive temporal periods in a course: the preparatory stage, the first day of class, and ongoing.
- Students in Difficulty: This section includes strategies for responding to students in difficulty with confidence and care.
- Getting Feedback from Students on the Classroom Community: This section suggests ways to gather feedback from students about their experiences of community in the classroom.
- Self-Care for Instructors: This section acknowledges that the wellbeing of instructors, along with the wellbeing of students, should also be a priority. Each tool includes a step-by-step procedure, example or testimonial and a link to further reading. We have also included a tracking sheet to stimulate reflection on the tools used.
The tools in this Toolkit have been collected through interviews conducted with current instructors in the Faculty of Arts, students and members of the McGill community, as well as research in educational development. As you read through this Toolkit, you will find a variety of strategies for a variety of contexts. Please choose the ones that best suit your context.
We are interested in how this project may spark reflection on the notion of classroom communities and begin a dialogue. Should you wish to partake in this discussion, or have comments, questions, or an interest in contributing to the project, please contact us at marcy.slapcoff [at] mcgill.ca and kira.smith [at] mcgill.ca.
Marcy and Kira
Marcy Slapcoff, Educational Developer
Kira Smith, Project Assistant
Teaching and Learning Services
This Toolkit is the result of collaboration amongst many units and individuals. Initiated by Lucyna M. Lach, Marcy Slapcoff and Kira Smith at TLS, this resource includes the perspectives of many faculty, students and staff. Thank you to everyone!
Teaching and Learning Services
- Eva Dobler
- Sophia Kapchinsky
- David Syncox
- Laura Winer
Faculty of Arts Instructors
- Jason Carmichael
- Daniel Heller
- Miranda Hickman
- Becky Lentz
- Laura Madokoro
- Katherine Maurer
- Will Straw
Faculty of Arts Students
- Erik Partridge
- Harry Turner
- Madeline Wilson
Members of the McGill Community
- Rhonda Amsel, Faculty of Science
- Tsifoina Andriamanantena, Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD)
- Edith Breiner, Office of the Dean of Students
- Joan Butterworth, Campus Life and Engagement (CL&E)
- Rachel Desjourdy, Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD)
- Chris Dietzel, Campus Life and Engagement (CL&E)
- Amanda Saxe, Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD)
- Bianca Tétrault, Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education (OSVRSE)
Why is it important to build a sense of intellectual community in the classroom? Some will say that communities emerge organically, and that conscious and purposeful actions aimed at constructing community in the classroom are not necessary. Yet, I regularly meet students who experience a sense of anomie, disconnectedness, and even isolation throughout their academic careers. Such encounters made me wonder about whether it was possible to purposefully build and create classroom communities that would foster a sense of belonging and through this, a more meaningful experience of knowledges and skill acquisition.
The idea of a Toolkit that professors could easily access emerged as something that was tangible, useful, and would represent a beginning effort by the Faculty of Arts to not only adopt ways of supporting student success and well-being, but do so in a manner that upheld the principle of care.
Throughout the process of developing this Toolkit, I have learned that there are numerous colleagues in the Faculty of Arts with whom this notion of intellectual community resonates. They have already been teaching with this in mind and are looking for ways to enhance what they have implemented. We have much to learn from them. Others wonder about the role that they could play in facilitating a stronger sense of an intellectual community; they are interested in learning about and adopting new strategies in the classroom. Finally, there are those who have not considered this in the past, and who may be interested. We hope that you will find something in this Toolkit that is helpful.
This Toolkit provides instructors with tangible strategies for course design, assisting students in difficulty, getting feedback from students on the Toolkit, and self-care. Integrating any one of these strategies will take some time and energy, but the reward will be movement toward a richer and more fulfilling classroom environment for both you and your students. We are excited to present this menu of possibilities to the academic community and look forward to continuing to build upon the foundations that already exist.
Lucyna M. Lach, MSW, PhD
Associate Dean (Student Affairs), Faculty of Arts
Associate Professor, School of Social Work, Faculty of Arts
Associate Member, Departments of Paediatrics, Neurology and Neurosurgery