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Teaching and Learning Tip #35: Creating Community in Our Learning Spaces

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Tip #35: Creating Community in Our Learning Spaces

Contributed by Kim Vincent-Layton, Center for Teaching and Learning

Creating a supportive learning environment begins and continues with community. Community is a group of individuals who come together for a common purpose. Creating a space where everyone feels welcome, valued, and connected to others impacts the learning (Ambrose, Bridges, DiPietro, & Lovett, 2010). With this feeling of connection, students are more likely to attend and participate in class, have increased motivation, and are more likely to graduate from college. (Kangas Dwyer, Bingham, Carlson, Prisbell, & Cruz, 2009; Sawyer, Braz, & Babcock, 2009; Elliott, Gamino, & Jenkins, 2016).

One of the first steps in creating community is getting to know your peers and instructor. Consider the diverse perspectives and experiences that your students bring when they arrive to the classroom. How might students’ from different race, class, gender, experience, etc., learn as part of your classroom? How can you provide a space that supports multiple voices and perspectives?  Implementing community best practices is an essential part of today’s inclusive classrooms.

Starter List of Strategies:

  • Co-create ground rules that provide clear expectations and sets the foundation for the community. Consider coming to class with a ‘starter list’ of ground rules (e.g., One Mic Guidelines are a great start), and then open a discussion with students.
  • Cell Sharing. Each student in a small group shares a photo, song, or video from their mobile device that they think best represents them. Each person shares why they chose their selection.
  • Common Ground. Student pairs have 1 minute to find 6 things they have in common. Each pair joins with another pair and has 2 minutes to find 6 things that they all have in common.
  • Mini Group Quiz. Students work together to finish as much as they can in the allotted time.
  • Speed Friending. Create two rows of chairs facing each other. Students sit in chairs and have a 2-3 minute conversation based on a few prompts.  Students in one row move to the next chair every 2-3 minutes.
  • Buddy System. Have students exchange contact numbers with at least one other peer.

How do you create community in your learning spaces? We’d love to hear your strategies! Send us an email to so we can create a shared collection.

Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M.W., DiPietro, M. & Lovett, M.C. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Chickering, A.W., & Gamson, Z.F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. American Association of Higher Education Bulletin, 39(7), 3-7.

Elliott, D., Gamino, M., & Jenkins, J.J. (2016). Creating community in the college classroom: Best practices for increased student success. International Journal of Education and Social Science, 3(6), 29-41.

Kangas Dwyer, K., Bingham, S. G., Carlson, R.E., Prisbell, M., & Cruz, A.M. (2009). Communication and connectedness in the classroom: Development of the connected classroom climate inventory. Communication Research Reports, 21(3), 264-272.

Sawyer, J.K., Braz, M.E., & Babcock, J.L. (2009). To get-to-know-you or not to get-to-know-you: A two phase study of initial engagement activities. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 21(2), 187-196.

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