As described in the previous two chapters, the use of students’ personal narratives facilitated student learning of content and enhanced student engagement in a number of areas. In this chapter I will explore how the use of students’ narratives also contributed to the creation of a sense of community in the classroom.
As previously pointed out, the issue of a classroom community having been created was expressed almost exclusively in the students’ own words, recorded in the semester end taped discussion. Until that discussion, I was not aware of the significance of community for the students. However, once the students pointed it out, I was able to recognize that over the course of the semester a sense of commitment to one another developed in the class. Inviting students to share personal narratives contributed to the bond, sense of respect, comfort and willingness to offer academic assistance to one another that developed in the class.
In Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (1974), community is defined as
interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location.” In
addition, it defines community as a
“unified body of individuals” (p. 228). It is the
aspect of unity that is most relevant to what went on in the classroom.
Throughout their careers, instructors occasionally have a group of students that they seem to connect with and who connect with one another and subsequently create vibrant classroom energy. This research class was a delightful group of students in their enthusiastic response to classroom activities and in their accepting attitudes to one another. In turn, this type of atmosphere heightened my engagement with the course content and with the students themselves. The relationships and supportive atmosphere that developed in this classroom were, in my experience, particularly special. Using student personal narratives was one of the factors that contributed to this unique creation of community among the students and between the students and me.