Can a professor make students uncomfortable without making them fearful?

August 23, 2016

“As a college instructor, I believe that the most important thing I can do for students is to make them uncomfortable,” writes John Warner for Inside Higher Ed. Yet the author adds that this statement only holds true for students who feel secure in the first place. Warner acknowledges that there are many students who already arrive at school feeling uncomfortable, noting that “a student who experiences college feeling unsafe—culturally, academically, economically, socially—does not have the luxury of being challenged in the classroom because all of their energy is directed towards trying to survive.” Yet Warner asserts that this is exactly why professors must create a safe atmosphere so that students can enjoy the “luxury” of productive discomfort. “Put another way,” he concludes, “anxious and afraid are not synonyms for ‘uncomfortable.’” Inside Higher Ed