Theory and practice of learning and teaching


The concept of belonging has found prominence in higher education learning environments, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have an unprecedented impact on educational provision. In times of disruption, alienation and isolation, the most basic of our psychological and physiological needs have come to be almost universally recognised as critical factors that must be considered and examined. Experiencing belonging is integral to human existence, and knowing where, with whom, and how we belong, is a salient driver for learning and self-actualisation. We recognise there are a number of ways to frame and approach the idea of belonging in the educational experience. We also recognise that there are multiple understandings of what belonging means and therefore how it is enacted within the curricula and the “classroom” in its varying forms - physical, online, digital, work-based. This Editorial takes a critical perspective to our own intellectual standpoint in relation to pedagogies of belonging. As co-editors, we have outlined our respective conceptions and experiences of belonging as a collaborative autoethnography, capturing our individual views of pedagogies of belonging in a collaborative context. Our collaboration has allowed us to situate ourselves both theoretically and practically, as well as ontologically, and advance our understanding of practices that promote student belonging in all its possible forms within the higher education experience. We suggest that the possibilities for belonging offered by interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches are ripe for inquiry, and the place of non-traditional, Indigenous, iterative and emergent methodologies to examine belonging requires further exploration.

Practitioner Notes

  1. Belonging is a complex, multi-dimensional space that must take into account the ontological, epistemological, spatial, material, social, cultural and affective dimensions of the human experience.
  2. Writing in the spirit of a collaborative autoethnography, we aim to hold space for the multiplicity of interpretations that surround the concept of belonging.
  3. Pedagogies of belonging are not universal but unique to people, place, modes of study, and disciplinary and transdisciplinary cultures, among many other factors.
  4. Interrogating and critiquing received ways of making sense of belonging is a productive space for educational institutions.
  5. The problem with belonging is not merely an institutional problem, but a societal one, and we have a great deal to learn from Indigenous Knowledges and perspectives.

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