Identity Safety and Its Importance for Academic Success

  • Aisha N. LoweEmail author
Living reference work entry


While there are many external factors that contribute to the equity students do or do not experience, equally important are the internal or psychological factors that impact student performance. This chapter examines the need for identity safety in the classroom, and how the culture of a classroom (the unspoken messages) can create or inhibit equity of the psychological environment. The intersecting influences of student achievement goal orientations and classroom goal emphasis have a direct and significant impact on student motivation and academic achievement. Additionally, students across the developmental spectrum are actively negotiating who they are as a student and taking cues from the environment regarding their fit and likelihood of success. For students of color, this identity negotiation entails a very specific consideration of their racial self and whether or not that element of their person is welcomed in the academic space. These identity negotiations then interact with students’ achievement goals and their beliefs about intelligence and motivation, ultimately impacting their academic performance. Goal-fit and racial identity-fit thereby serve as core elements of belonging for students of color. Students of color need a strong sense of their own capability (private racial regard) and a positive belief in others’ assessment of them (public racial regard) to experience inclusion. As stereotype threat research has clearly demonstrated, this navigation of racial identity-fit is hindered by the impact of racism and stereotypes imbedded in the educational experience. Given belonging provides students the identity safety they need to be fully present in the classroom and risk the evaluation of their ability that is inherent in the academic teaching and learning process, it is essential for educational environments to provide a strong sense of belonging and identity safety to achieve true equity. This chapter considers how to move students from belonging uncertainty to identity safety and discusses interventions educational institutions, leaders, and faculty can institute to create truly inclusive environments.


Psychological environment Achievement goals Stereotype threat Racial identity Belonging Identity safety 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.American River CollegeSacramentoUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Aletha M. Harven
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and Child DevelopmentCalifornia State University, StanislausTurlockUSA

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