Creating Community Through Pastries and Coffee
The start of each new academic term brings with it many mixed feelings for students. New students may be filled with apprehension, curiosity, fear and excitement, whereas current students are hopefully returning excited and ready for the next step.
The baking program at NAIT has found a unique way to engage students and create community within the program, says Alan Dumonceaux, chair of the baking program
“Three to four weeks into the year, I was having a discussion with students and overwhelmingly the group commented on how stressed out they were and that they did not remember anything from the first few days in orientation,” he says. “Obviously we were overloading them with too much information, and we needed a way to help ease their anxiety.”
So the idea of a meet and greet over pastries was born.
When students see pastries and coffee, they have an hour to mingle with their classmates and share a conversation with their instructor.
“It's almost a complete metamorphosis in them. They loosen up tremendously. The meet and greet has brought such a positive change and has helped to ease student anxiety,” Dumonceaux says.
“Providing students with a social, less formal introduction to the program improves their ability to communicate and helps them feel comfortable and confident going forward,” says Perry Michetti, manager of operations in the School of Skilled Trades. “Meeting their instructors for the first time over a cup of coffee and a handshake is much better than a distant introduction from a lectern.”
Building your own classroom community
Here is a question for instructors to ponder: how can you build a classroom community to support learners?
Education literature speaks loudly about the values of building a classroom community and yet it is also widely known that it takes intentional action on the part of instructors to be successful. Barkley (2010) states that students have a need to be part of a social community and that they will engage more in their learning when they feel welcomed, valued and able to contribute to the learning community.
As instructors, we should always be thinking of ways to create a better classroom community.
Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.