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"Building Academic Relationships is Crucial to Positive Student Outcomes" - Dr. Linda Ponder

Students require many resources to be successful. Supportive individuals in the home or academic community are essential resources throughout a student’s educational journey. Teachers, administrators, program directors, mentors, success coaches, family, peers, and many others are vital to the success of a student. However, each student is different. Each student’s needs are different. Each student needs the support of different people in order to succeed. There are links that should be put into place for the student’s success. If one link is missing, though, there can be a break in that student’s program or degree. They could fail to complete their goals.

COVID was a game changer. As of this writing, we are still playing that game, and it is like we are trying to make a comeback after the half-time break. One of the largest barriers was the reduction of personal instructional support because of the increase in use of technology. I am not saying technology has taken the place of the instructor, but in some ways, it seems that way. However, we added great things from technology. We are using more virtual tools than ever before. The use of technologies like ZOOM, Bamboozle, and FlipGrid became more popular.

Students need people, tools, and resources to complete their educational journey. Most individuals need resources or tools to help them complete a job or a goal. A person building a house needs many tools and a lot of material to get the project completed. One tool will not be sufficient. That is the case with a student. They will need many tools, resources, materials, library and laboratory services, textbooks, equipment, faculty, and staff to help them reach their goal of an education.

This positive outcome can only happen if the student has determination, willpower, diligence, and relationships to pursue their education. As instructors and advisors know, it takes “all hands in” to motivate an individual through the challenges of learning. The student must be supported, encouraged, and mentored to grow and achieve their goals. Building strong academic relationships is crucial to the positive outcome of a completed education. The relationships help form a foundation to grow while learning.

Research shows that basic needs of shelter, food, and belonging must be met before learning can be successful (McLeod, 2022). It demonstrates the basis of relationships through the need of belonging and connections. These needs must be met before one can develop self-esteem, strength, and on to self-actualization. Beyond this, the student will be able to learn (McLeod, 2022). Without these basic needs, the student will struggle and possibly fail. As educators, we can fortify their pyramid of needs by offering a sense of belonging and strengthen their learning journey. We can connect and share through diversity and inclusion.

I conducted research as well. My research inquired about the perceptions, relationships, and connections of the student with their instructors and student peers. It focused on the sense of belonging and the correlation of their student success on their academic goals (Ponder, 2021). There were barriers and obstructed connections to achieving their goals. Maslow asserted that individuals need relationships to enforce academic growth and to be able to withstand some of the barriers (McLeod, 2022). Networking, relationships, and communication are important to bridge gaps and make connections.

Students suggest having more group activities, study partners, and more one-on-one interaction with peers and instructors. The students in my study showed they held a lot of value in relationships. They expressed their feelings of not having the sense of belonging and shared the need for connections to ensure their academic success.

Participating in group activities gives students a sense of connection and belonging to their environment. This gives confidence and removes perceived barriers to accessing peer support and creates a more sustained growth to success (McBeath, 2018). When belonging to a group, the student can engage, collaborate, discuss, participate, and communicate. They can seek support from the peers within the group.

In my research, I found that Joshua Knapp (2020) discussed that a good fit creates a sense of connection, and Margaret McBeath (2018) shared that recruitment and retention come from a good fit and students’ connections in the college. We must ensure a good fit by paying attention to the students’ needs, making sure the students feel a sense of belonging, and communicating to confirm course content. We can make an impact by making sure students have the resources they need, including a sense of belonging to help achieve academic success.

Knapp, J. R., Masterson, S. S. & Kedharnath, (2020). Where and how does fitting in matter? Examining new students perceived fit with their university, instructors, and classmates. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 22(1) , 49-70.

McBeath, M., Drysdale, M.T. B., & Bohn, N. (2018). Work-integrated learning and importance of peer support and sense of belonging. Education & Training, 60(1), 39-53.

McLeod, S. (2022) Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Simply Psychology.

Ponder, L. (2021). A Phenomenological Study on the Perceptions of College Students’ Sense of Belonging and the Impact of COVID-19 on Academic Outcomes, Colorado Technical University.

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