Special issue


Belonging as a responsive strategy in times of supercomplexity and change


Since 2011 the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University has been actively supporting an ethos of belonging throughout their learning and teaching. In 2017 ‘belonging’ became a formal university priority, embedded in the institution’s strategy and dispersed across Colleges and Schools through a range of activities and interventions. However, in the supercomplex COVID-19 landscape, practices of belonging are being reconsidered and reimagined for online learning environments. This paper outlines some of the reasons why belonging should be prioritised during times of intense change and complexity. We outline a range of responsive initiatives that have assisted staff and students as they rapidly shifted to a learning and teaching environment. Indeed, given our grounding in the field of media and communication, we seek to demonstrate that embracing supercomplexity through a disciplinary focus can in fact be productive for staff and students alike. Through this discussion we demonstrate how a belonging strategy at the institutional level can be translated as embedded practice at the level of the discipline and within micro-level classroom interventions.

Practitioner Notes

  1. This paper provides comprehensive a definition of belonging sourced from a diverse range disciplines

  2. We then provide international context on how belonging is defined within the higher education and sector.

  3. The paper demonstrates the importance of institutional support for belonging in higher education.

  4. We provide evidence that The Belonging Narrative Model and 2017 RMIT Belonging Strategies can be read as tools to navigate the supercomplexity that defines the contemporary university.

  5. Two grassroots and easily transferable case study examples of embedded belonging practices appropriate for both face-to-face and online learning are provided.