Supporting students' sense of community and belonging

Central to community and inclusion is that the community members feel accepted and valued as themselves. Belonging to a study community means gaining experiences of the relevance of studies and identification with the student community. The sense of belonging is unique and can only be triggered if students identify themselves with the community. That is why it is important to think how to create and promote the sense of inclusion in your teaching.
Students in a lecture hall

A student’s sense of belonging is strongly correlated with the ability to learn. The feeling of belonging produces feelings of empowerment, motivation and agency. Similarly, feelings of exclusion or marginalization hinder learning.

Measures to support student participation include

  1. clear communication on objectives and supporting actions such as learning strategies and assessment
  2. informing about support and feedback opportunities both at the beginning of the course and during the course
  3. choices of teaching methods that also support student interaction and learning and student participation in the production of course content
  4. creating a safe working environment and agreeing on common practices
  5. involving the student in these policies and processes

The teacher can promote community and inclusion in the course in many different ways, some of which are listed in the table below as well as in the guide produced by Nyyti. The student can also contribute to the emergence of community and inclusion in the group.

For some of us, it is important to belong to some permanent communities, such as the class of the degree program. For others, awareness of a community or experience that a community exists is enough for a sense of community. A sense of community doesn’t always show up as an activity, but it’s important to communicate that everyone has the opportunity to become part of the community. On the other hand, communality can also be considered as mandatory. In this case, it is important that the individual sees the significance of their own activities and involvement and is empowered and motivated by the activities of the community.

What are the experienced best practices?

A question about inclusion was added as a common question to all course feedback surveys at Aalto in the beginning of academic year 2022-2023. The question reads: ‘Which factors in the course served to promote the accessibility of the teaching, encourage participation, and reduce discrimination (e.g., in the selected teaching and assessment methods, course material, or learning environment)?" The new question is a result of joint development work. After one term, the data collected were reviewed and categorized. Over 7000 responses of student feedback offer us a deeper understanding of the students' perception from teaching related inclusion. Here are some highlights: 

Material fo support

Group of student working together

Agreeing on guidelines for inclusive interaction in the course

Inclusive teaching practices are inseparable from high quality teaching practices, so inclusive teaching affects all aspects of a course and learning experience.  


Tips to maintain togetherness and team spirit

Collection of tips to maintain relatedness and team spirit

The Best Thing Today banner low OASIS

The Best Thing Today podcast series

The Best Thing Today is a podcast series by Aalto study, career and advanced study psychologists.


A sense of community can also be supported outside the course. In many cases, loose-knit, low-threshold communities act as a factor in increasing a sense of community while increasing wellbeing in the communities. In university communities, this can be, for example, a curriculum development group, an academic guidance group or a leisure group in which everyone who is interested is welcome to participate in a multi-voiced, skilled and multi-faceted way. In addition to supporting wellbeing, the group acts as an empowerment and support agent.

This service is provided by:

Learning Services

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