Fostering Safe and Inclusive Learning Environments

Approved by the AAPT Board of Directors on June 23, 2018

AAPT envisions schools and classrooms where students of all races, ethnicities, genders, religions and identities can realize their fullest potential in physics, free from bullying, harassment or hostilities. In these environments, teachers and administrators recognize and respond quickly to aggressions, recognize and value students’ cultural community knowledge, and address their own biases in order to create a safe, welcoming and inclusive atmosphere that promotes learning.

There is abundant evidence that a supportive classroom environment can significantly enhance the learning of physics while a hostile environment burdens students with additional hardships, impeding learning and potentially causing them to abandon physics. These effects disproportionately affect students marginalized because of their identities, for example: students of color, women, LGBTQA students, differently abled or from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and the threat increases significantly for those with multiple historically excluded identities.

AAPT supports actions that create safe, inclusive classrooms and schools. Specifically, we strongly endorse programs that encourage students to take advantage of their community cultural wealth (culturally-based knowledge, skills and contacts possessed that often go unrecognized and unacknowledged). We encourage teachers to use pedagogies that incorporate growth mindsets that emphasize student assets, not deficits. We recognize the responsibility of instructors and administrators in ensuring safe, non-hostile environments. AAPT also  encourages teachers to consider the possibility of biases, conscious and unconscious, in their instruction and assessment, and to vigorously confront internal and external factors that diminish diversity and inclusion in the classroom.

Faculty are encouraged to consult the list of references below, which serve as a useful introduction to these issues.

Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth Tara J. Yosso , Race Ethnicity and Education Vol. 8, Iss. 1, 2005

Mindsets That Promote Resilience: When Students Believe That Personal Characteristics Can Be Developed, David Scott Yeager & Carol S. Dweck, Educational Psychologist Vol. 47, Iss. 4, 2012

Bandwidth Recovery: Helping Students Reclaim Cognitive Resources Lost to Poverty, Racism, and Social Marginalization, Cia Verschelden, Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, 2017

A Framework for Culturally Responsive Teaching, Raymond J. Wlodkowski and Margery B. Ginsberg, Strengthening Student Engagement Vol. 53, Iss. 1, 1995 (available at

Promoting a Culture of Assets Instead of Deficits, Darryl Yong,

Inclusive Classroom Environment (

Building inclusive classrooms (

Inclusive teaching strategies (

Inclusive teaching resources and strategies (

Guide for Inclusive Teaching at Columbia (

Please tell us about the resources you are using to create a safe and an inclusive classroom.  Send us an email at