What is Identity Safety?

Identity safe classrooms are those in which teachers strive to ensure students that their social identities are an asset rather than a barrier to success in the classroom. Acknowledging students’ identities, rather than trying to be colorblind, can build the foundation for strong positive relationships. This, coupled with challenging opportunities to learn, can help all students begin to feel they are welcomed, supported, and valued as members of the learning community.

When classrooms are not identity safe students from negatively stereotyped groups can feel a sense of stereotype threat- a sense of not belonging or being seen as capable students.  In these classrooms, students may receive fewer opportunities to participate in challenging curriculum, share in the responsibility for the classroom or see themselves and people like them represented in the materials, learning activities and environment.  This situation can make students worry that they may be judged or treated in terms of their group’s stereotype or that they might do something that would inadvertently confirm this negative stereotype.  

The Stanford Integrated Schools Project conducted research in 84 diverse elementary classrooms and found evidence that when teachers used identity safe teaching strategies, students performed better on the state-mandated tests and liked school more. This year-long research revealed four components of identity safe teaching practice.  

 These practices are based on the fundamental principle that teaching and learning is a social process based on trusting relationships.  Because of the social nature of learning, the social identities of the teacher and each of the students is important and influences every interaction in the classroom. 

The Components of Identity Safety >

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