Create a learning environment that is open and respectful by stressing the values of each individual and the experience s/he brings to the class.

Creating a safe, respectful environment requires the following tools:

  • Making it clear that anything less will not be tolerated
  • Embracing the unknown and unexpected
  • Reinforcing what you know to be true

Your need and desire for an open, respectful classroom become your demands.  Tolerating less means compromising both integrity and learning.  It is critical to help motivate students, beyond their self-motivation, to be mindful of their perceptions and the perceptions of others when addressing the class in a forum. (Robbins and Judge, 2010) and

Example: As part of the instructional design, make a special private forum where people can post if they feel attacked/harassed and respond quickly to any issues.

Example: Make it very clear in writing  as a primary “bullet point” that an open, respectful environment is key.

Example: Do not immediately discount or dismiss anyone in the class.  Listen and respond equally well to all students.

Embracing the unknown and unexpected means that we look for positive ways to receive unexpected or unknown information while not discounting that it could be inappropriate in some way.

 Example: Understand, as the instructor, that you don’t know what comments or argumentation may arise despite having crafted a well-designed course.

Example: Making the instructional design for course, as a part of crafting, direct and easy to follow so that the focus is on gaining new knowledge and insights and not being harshly argumentative in the classroom.

Reinforcing what you know to be true includes things like reiterating, when necessary, that certain words, phrases are flat out offensive and are not to be used.  Period!  Using what you already know to be true about language that is sexist, racist and like reinforces your knowledge base and leadership for students. (Robbins and Judge, 2010) Ways to accomplish this can include the following tools:

  1. Leading by example – choosing  and using your words very deliberately
  2. Leading with empathy and compassion – understanding that, although unacceptable, the words spoken by some may be out of genuine ignorance or may not have been poorly intended
  3. Leading by determination – having the ability to educate students about what they may have said that was inappropriate and offer thoughts for change and encouragement

Robbins, S.P. & Judge, T.A. (2010) Essentials of organizational behavior.  New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

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