Fostering a sense of classroom belonging is especially important for members of historically marginalized groups, because they receive signals that suggest they do not belong regularly, through the course of daily activities and routine interactions. This context can create ample opportunities for belonging uncertainty, that feeling of vigilance for subtle exclusionary signals that detracts from learning.
Self-affirmation activities directly combat belonging uncertainty by focusing students’ attention on valued aspects of their identities, instead of the negative stereotypes that they face in other facets of their lives. These activities facilitate participants’ reflection on positive aspects of themselves, their identities, and their communities. Doing so prevents the counterproductive “tunnel vision” that occurs when students believe they may not be valued members of the classrooms.
This activity offers one such activity, called a values affirmation activity. Students spend time identifying values that are personally important to them and describing specific times that these values were particularly relevant. It is framed as a “get to know you” activity and can be implemented in a short period of time (15-20 minutes). It can also be easily adapted, but any adaptations should be careful to consider the purpose of the activity (self-affirmation) when doing so.
It is important to note that self-affirmation activities are only useful insofar that students have opportunities to engage positively with their teacher and other students following the activity. That is, interventions such as these amplify the potential for positive social interaction, they are not substitutes for this interaction.