This paper seeks to unveil the situated struggle that students experience in comprehending the often tacit rules that govern academic practices in order to engage fully with their academic studies and develop a sense of belonging. I present a critique of the prevailing conception of student belonging, which I suggest does not effectively consider the diversity of contemporary university cohorts due to favouring social groups traditionally dominating the student body. Non-traditional students, especially those from contexts distant from Western higher education, can often struggle with developing confidence and conversance with critical thinking – a central practice of academia – which negatively impacts their experiences of belonging. My research with master’s students in three Scottish universities shows that dialogic active pedagogy can be a means for establishing belonging while also supporting some students' development and demonstration of critical being across multiple domains and to transformatory levels. Such empowering participatory pedagogy, captured in the finding of ‘contexts of difference', can potentially provide the means for students to adapt and establish belonging within the culture, context and subject of their learning while also enabling the development of criticality, to the highest levels, amongst some students.
Graham, C. (2022). From belonging to being: Engaging with ‘contexts of difference’. Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, 19(4),