Fearless Teaching Framework: Classroom Climate

Climate is one of the four pieces of the the Fearless Teaching Framework. Learn more about the other pieces: Content, Teaching Practice, and Assessments.

Classroom Climate refers to the sense of warmth and support within a learning context. We believe that Fearless teachers improve teaching and learning by reflecting on their practices cultivating a supportive, inclusive, accessible, and equitable climate.

Supportive: Students benefit academically from supportive environments and feeling a sense of belonging from their campus community (Strayhorn, 2012) and individual courses (Zumbrunn, McKim, Buhs, & Hawley, 2014). Instructors and teaching assistants play an important role in creating the supportive classroom environment students need to develop a sense of belonging, motivation, and engagement in the classroom conversation (Zumbrunn et al., 2014). Studies show that when students feel supported by the instructors, they are more likely to ask questions, ask for help, support their peers, engage deeply with material, and achieve academically (Alcott, 2017; Tanner, 2013).

Accessible: In addition to the University of Maryland College Park’s standards for supporting Students with Disabilities, Fearless teachers create an accessible climate by getting to know the content, language, and experiences of their students and providing the necessary supports so that each student can achieve the learning objectives. Based on the assumptions of Universal Design, cultivating an accessible climate can require teachers to think outside the box to provide a thoughtfully scaffolded learning experience based on students’ needs. (Meyer, Rose, & Gordon, 2014).

Inclusive: Inclusive classrooms with open communication, supportive relationships, and a shared emphasis on promoting academic progress are considered to have a positive climate (Bain, 2012; Howard-Hamilton, 2000; Pascarella, 1980; Schmuck, 1968; Shapiro, 1993; Wilson, Gaff, Dienst, Wood, & Barry, 1975). When teachers or students send messages that someone is not welcome in the class, it negatively affects that student, and the learning environment. If not addressed appropriately by the instructor, incivilities can negatively impact learning during the course and also influence a student's success at the university (Hirschy & Braxton, 2004). Fearless teachers are prepared to address these comments and behaviors in the moment.

Equitable: Effective teachers are able to promote equitable outcomes across students with different needs, experiences, and backgrounds. Responsive teachers can meet students where they are, and provide supports to help students acheive (Strayhorn, 2012). Cultivating an equitable classroom is a topic that can seem daunting to beginners. Follow our Beginner’s Checklist to get started.



  • Student Veterans are more successful when instructors are conscious of their presence in the classroom and how class content or political conversations might make them feel unwelcome or upset (Elliott, Gonzalez, & Larsen, 2011; Lighthall, 2012). Administering a Day 1 survey could prevent some of the negative situations that UMD students veterans experience:

  • The Inclusive Language campaign is a student-driven educational initiative educating students, faculty, and staff about how some people are ashamed of their identities as a result of the language used by others. See UMD students talking about the culture of inclusive language they wish to see on campus. 
  • Many students use a name other than the one on their official registration record. Encourage the use of students’ primary first names by allowing them to introduce themselves on the first day of class. Click here to learn more about the University’s primary vs. legal first name policy.
  • Use this map to find the closest gender neutral or family bathrooms to your classroom.