by Dr Sarah Moulds
Law students face many challenges when it comes to engaging positively with their studies. They may live in regional or remote locations, have caring responsibilities, live with a disability, or come from a disadvantaged socio-economic background. Even students with strong external support systems can struggle to adapt to the demanding learning environment associated with completing a professionally accredited law degree. The Belonging in the Law Classroom Project aims to improve the experience and retention of first-year Law students at UniSA by better understanding and fostering their sense of belonging in the online or physical classroom.
Past studies (e.g Ahn,& Davis, 2020; Gijn, Grosvenor, & Huisman, 2020) have identified a strong causal link between students’ sense of belonging at University and student retention. This has led to a sustained focus on developing institutional strategies to improve student engagement, largely focused on extra-curricular supports or activities, but less focus on what happens in the classroom to foster student belonging.
Working with law discipline staff and students, this Project will identify existing classroom-based supports and develop new strategies for fostering belonging in the classroom across the compulsory first-year courses within the UniSA Law Program. Practical frameworks, exemplars and resources will be compiled to provide First Year Law teachers with building blocks that they can utilise to foster student belonging in their classroom. By focusing on student belonging in the classroom, this Project will provide a fresh perspective for teaching staff in Law from which to understand student retention and engagement and create space for programmatic approaches to curriculum review and assessment.