Positive Student Experiences
The student experience has never been more important. Not only because students invest a substantial amount of effort and time in their education, but because the overall university experience is central to helping them overcome broader personal obstacles, realize their unique contributions to society, and find personal meaning.
Many facets of the student experience are also linked to academic achievement and other indicators of student success, so it is essential that we listen to student voices and work towards providing positive experiences.
Historically, many universities have viewed the student experience as a means for attracting students and increasing enrolment. This is controversial in that it represents students as customers, measures satisfaction as a transaction, and can reduce the complexity of student experiences to a one-size-fits-all definition.
It is important to recognize that there is no single student experience. The sheer diversity within the student population means that there is an array of different backgrounds, attitudes, expectations, needs and aspirations that influence a student’s experience. Instructors also shape this experience through course-based experiences, enhancing accessibility, elevating inclusive practices, ensuring that students feel supported, and helping students develop a sense of belonging within a discipline and in the university community.
Memorial University is committed to supporting inclusive education based on the principles of equity, accessibility and collaboration.
Note that accessibility is not limited to accommodations for students with identified disabilities. Accessibility is a broader concept that includes enhanced accessibility for various marginalized, underrepresented, and diverse student populations.
This includes, but not limited to, student diversity across physical abilities, learning differences, mental health, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, social origin, economic background, religion, age, family status, as well as racial, ethnic and Indigenous identities. For more information, please refer to our section on Accessibility.
- Accessibility – Memorial University
Instructors often feel overwhelmed or ill-equipped to effectively support students’ mental health and wellbeing. While directing students to university-wide supports and initiatives is helpful, there are also simple strategies that instructors can implement directly.
Many of these focus on the creation of supportive learning environments, as well as teaching approaches that allow for greater autonomy and provision of timely scaffolding.
The following resource focuses on how instructors may enhance student wellbeing, including information around approaches that enable autonomy, foster self-direction, autonomous motivation, promote inclusion and belonging, encourage positive relationships, and scaffold for confidence.
- Enhancing Student Wellbeing – C. Baik (project co-ordinator), University of Melbourne
A sense of belonging is experienced when students feel that they are accepted and valued by others within their social groups, course, discipline, and institution.
Belongingness is strongly associated with academic achievement and an overall successful university experience. Apart from providing opportunities that foster positive relationships, it is important for instructors to avoid making direct, or indirect, assumptions about students or about other groups.
This can be done by ensuring that all course materials use inclusive language, avoiding social and cultural stereotypes, and by making an effort to get to know your students, their context, and their prior learning.
The following resource outlines what is meant by a sense of belonging and offers some tips on how to foster a sense of belonging within your classroom.
- Sense of Belonging in the College Classroom – Ohio State University