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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

'You don't get taught that' – How ‘safe’ classrooms can hinder learning.

Williams, Helen and Quaid, Sheila (2023) 'You don't get taught that' – How ‘safe’ classrooms can hinder learning. Teaching in Higher Education. ISSN 1470-1294

Item Type: Article


It is often asserted that to facilitate student engagement, encourage participation and create optimal learning environments, the classroom should be a safe space. In this paper we explore the idea that ‘safety’ is at odds with the very nature of academic enquiry. Using data from a qualitative study with staff at a UK University, we illustrate how the expectation of safety is troublesome and works to inhibit learning, particularly in the social sciences which explore difficult and sensitive subject matter. The responsibility for creation and maintenance of safe classrooms is often presumed to lie with teaching staff, and the impact of this is under researched. We consider alternative constructions of the classroom space and ways forward which can potentially support tutors with the challenges of teaching difficult topics. We ultimately advocate for approaches that position students as partners and the creation of learning spaces where differences can co-exist.

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More Information

Uncontrolled Keywords: Safe space, brave, space learning, teaching, discomfort
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Helen Williams


Item ID: 15886
Identification Number:
ISSN: 1470-1294
Official URL:

Users with ORCIDS

ORCID for Helen Williams: ORCID iD
ORCID for Sheila Quaid: ORCID iD

Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2023 13:16
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2023 13:16


Author: Helen Williams ORCID iD
Author: Sheila Quaid ORCID iD

University Divisions

Faculty of Education and Society > School of Social Sciences


Education > Higher Education
Social Sciences > Sociology
Social Sciences

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