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ERIC Number: EJ1073567
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 14
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: EISSN-1918-2902
Is "Safety" Dangerous? A Critical Examination of the Classroom as Safe Space
Barrett, Betty J.
Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, v1 n1 Article 9 2010
The notion that the classroom can, indeed must, be a safe space to promote student engagement and enhance academic outcomes is pervasive in the teaching and learning literature. Despite the prevalence of this claim, there is a dearth of empirical evidence documenting the effectiveness of safe space classrooms in achieving these goals. The purpose of this essay is to provide a critical examination of the classroom as safe space. I begin by deconstructing the common meanings of safety as presented in the pedagogical literature and provide an overview of the existing research on student perceptions of safe space learning environments. I then problematize the metaphor of the classroom as safe space through an examination of 1) the impact of safety on student intellectual development 2) the impossibility of safety for students in marginalized and oppressed populations 3) the challenges to assessing student learning in safe environments and 4) the ambiguity inherent in defining safety for students. I conclude by arguing that both educators and students are better served by the development of an alternative discourse of classroom safety, one that is predicated on the notion of classroom civility.
University of Western Ontario and Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Mills Memorial Library Room 504, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON L8S 4L6, Canada. Tel: 905-525-9140; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A