Title: Nurturing Relatedness Online: Practices conveying care, connection and collegiality
Presenter(s): Steve Murphy
School of Education (FoAE)
Session Type: Paper Presentation
When: Wednesday, November 18th 2020 @ 12pm – 1pm
Abstract: Relatedness is defined as the need to feel belonging and emotional connection to others, and satisfying this need is understood to be a key contributor to student motivation. However, the importance of relatedness attracts limited attention in higher education, despite evidence of its importance in relation to student engagement and equity issues. There are arguments in the literature that historical and commercial factors in higher education can impede the development of relatedness. Online subjects, where participants are separated in space, and often in time, are presented in the literature as posing additional challenges for nurturing connections and a sense of belonging. Surmounting these challenges have become even more important with online learning predominating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This paper presents a study of practices I employed in a deliberate effort to develop a sense of relatedness in a new online teacher education subject. These practices included: weekly cohort-specific video guides instead of lectures; soliciting student feedback throughout the session using online surveys; and developing professional learning teams within the group to support individuals to complete authentic assessment tasks. Adopting a rigorous self-study methodology, this study interrogates these practices drawing on a variety of data, and through several conceptual lenses and perspectives. The study draws on data from communications with students, subject materials and artefacts, personal reflective writings, and both qualitative and quantitative data from subject evaluation surveys. I outline the antecedents, largely rooted in prior online teaching experiences, prompting my focus on relatedness, and the development of the abovementioned practices, in this subject. Then, using the constructs of care, connection, and collegiality, I describe the features of the practices that were intended to nurture relatedness, as well as the impacts of these practices on the development of a sense of relatedness throughout the delivery of the subject. The findings of this study suggest that these practices not only contributed to meeting students’ need for relatedness, but arguably were significant contributors to the strong student achievement in assessments, and the positive subject experience survey results, in this subject. This study illustrates that a sense of relatedness can be deliberately developed in an online subject, and provides a model for others seeking to convey care, connection, and collegiality online.
This paper addresses the conference themes of “maintaining wellbeing” given its themes of care and connection, and well as “reimagining learning” given its implicit challenge to a dominant culture in higher education.