The Necessary Ingredient

Submitted By:
Noah Cogan, St. Catherine's School, Richmond, VA and Tamara Schurdak, Teachers College, New York, NY

Belonging: The Science of Creating Connection And Bridging Divides by Geoffrey L. Cohen
W. W. Norton & Company, September 13, 2022

In his accessible book Belonging: The Science of Creating Connection and Bridging Divides, Geoffrey L. Cohen argues that belonging is more than one criterion; it is a necessary ingredient for success in any setting and "every domain in which humans deal with other humans." Cohen offers steps supported by social science that we can employ to nurture a sense of belonging in ourselves, in others, and in our schools. Additionally, Cohen sprinkles in various school-related case studies, such as Elizabeth Paluck's work combating bullying in New Jersey's public schools. He also devotes an entire chapter to outline research he conducted on feedback in the classroom. In this study, he implements "wise criticism," which yielded positive results regarding student engagement. Furthermore, he cites the research of Jason Okonofua, a professor at UC Berkeley, on interrupting negative feedback loops between teachers and students of color. He also offers specific, often small steps we can each take to bridge distance and disconnect. Cohen reminds us of the powerful, positive impact of belonging on students and also highlights ways it can allow for productive conversations in our school communities, improve our own connection as employees, and influence our personal health. His writing is infused with optimism; fostering belonging in our daily interactions impacts us personally and all those with whom we interact.

Social-Emotional Learning
Student Wellness & Safety
Teaching Practice