You Belong @MIT

There is mounting evidence that academic engagement and success are predicated on academic as well as social belonging.  Although much work has focused on helping students develop a sense of belonging in general, current research suggests that students must feel like they belong in a department or academic discipline.[1]

Academic belonging must be actively, consciously and thoughtfully fostered within academic departments and subjects.  A student who feels a sense of belonging feels cared about, accepted, respected, and valued by others. Notably, the absence of a feeling of belonging appears to impact underrepresented students most acutely, often contributing to a disengagement and in some cases poorer academic performance.[2]

During the Spring 2017 term, The Teaching and Learning Lab, supported by MIT’s MindHandHeart initiative, launched the "You Belong @MIT" initiative and hosted a variety of events to engage the MIT community in discussions of the literature on academic belonging.  Our goal was to help participants identify department and subject-based strategies to increase students’ sense of belonging. In the fall, we will continue disseminating the research findings and focus on working with departments to implement tools and strategies in their specific classroom and departmental contexts.

Spring 2017 Presentation by Dr. Catherine Good

Supporting Student Belonging in Academic Disciplines, Catherine Good, Associate Professor of Psychology, Baruch College, CUNY

Dr. Good received a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Kansas in 1994 and an Ad Hoc Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in mathematics education and social psychology from The University of Texas at Austin in 2001. While a postdoctoral research fellow at Columbia University from 2001-2005 she developed a research program that focuses on the social forces that shape academic achievement, learning, motivation, and self-image, particularly for females in STEM disciplines. In particular, she studies the effects of stereotype threat and develops interventions to help students overcome its effects.  Specifically, she focuses on increasing students’ sense of belonging to STEM disciplines and fostering incremental views of intelligence as methods of combating the cultural stereotypes.    

In this interactive seminar, Prof. Good introduced participants to the research in this area, the research methods used, and discussed strategies for increasing students’ sense of belonging.

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[1] Cheryan, Plaut, Davies, & Steele, 2009; Good, Rattan, & Dweck, 2012; Lewis, Stout, Pollock, Finkelstein, & Ito, 2016; Wilson et al., 2015.
[2] Hausmann, Schofield, & Woods, 2007; Walton & Cohen, 2007.