The Office of Faculty Development

Community Building & Involvement

Community is a multifaceted and multilayered aspect of who we are as individuals. As instructors, it is important to foster a sense of community in the classroom. Research indicates that the creation and nourishment of the classroom community is beneficial to both students and instructors. However, it is equally important that students are able to identify the communities that they stem from and the community that they have become a part of by becoming a member of the university. The university is an institution with a physical place and that physical place has a deep rooted sociopolitcal history. When we acknowledge that “Chico State stands on lands that were originally occupied by the first people of this area, the Mechoopda,” we are highlighting the sociopolitical history of the physical space we occupy as a university. Recognition is important, but it is equally important that we aid in the immersion of students within the broader community that the university is a part of. Amongst other means, immersion is possible via place-consciousness pedagogy and civic engagement. 

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    Examine selected research on community building and involvement. 

    Sochacki, J. (2020, March 23). A checklist for building community in the college classroom. in new window)

    Building community. Centre for teaching and learning, Western University. in new window)

    Metzger, J. (2012). Teaching civic engagement : evaluating an integrative service-learning program. Gateways (Sydney, N.S.W.)5(1), 98–114. in new window)

    Owusu-Agyeman, Y., & Fourie-Malherbe, M. (2021). Students as partners in the promotion of civic engagement in higher education. Studies in Higher Education (Dorchester-on-Thames)46(6), 1241–1255. in new window)


    Ready to apply community building and involvement to your teaching? Here are some ideas and strategies to get you started:

    Create a sense of community in the classroom:

    1. Allow students to connect to each other by inviting students to share information about themselves and facilitating activities that create deliberate and intentional interactions. Here is a list of some ice breakers(opens in new window) that can be utilized throughout a semester. Although ice breakers are typically viewed as activities for the first week of class, they can be useful throughout the semester as a means to allow for students to meet new people and create new connections. Also view The First Class Teaching Guide for additional support on having a successful first day.
    2. Connect to your students. As the instructor of a course, it is important that your students feel they can trust you. An easy way to move beyond being viewed as solely as your role in the classroom is to engage in ice breakers with your students. Further, sharing aspects of yourself and your story can reveal connections and similarities that your students would otherwise be unaware of. Participating in activities with your students can also aid in flattening the hierarchy of the classroom and making you more approachable. Learn and call on your students by name. 
    3. Establish clear guidelines for classroom etiquette and norms. Students should have clear expectations of classroom interactions.

    Connecting to and recognizing the larger community and ‘place’:

    1. Provide opportunities for students to share and discuss the communities and physical locations that they come from.
    2. Provide context for the larger community within which the class exists (major, program, department, college, city, county). Only 26.5% of Chico’s student population comes from within Chico State’s service area, so it is highly probable that most students will be unfamiliar with the surrounding community and its history. 
    3. Design assignments that encourage students to interact with and become involved in the surrounding community in ways that are meaningful and facilitate a deeper understanding of the physical space and sociopolitcal history of the community.