Dignity as a Higher Education Pedagogy

Oct 23, 2021 by

University and college educators are having to quickly transition to teaching not only their core subject but also manage classroom politics and navigate sensitive trending topics in a widely divided nation. As a result, some colleges have opted to provide faculty with professional development in teaching with dignity. Dignity from the Latin word dignitas, meaning ‘to be worthy’, not to be confused with respect, that which is earned for dignity is a given.

Donna Hicks, a conflict-resolution researcher, professor, consultant, and international advisor has written a book and developed the Dignity Model. Hicks, who worked in conflict resolution, explains that when discussing sensitive issues such as in the Middle East, under the table conversations were leading to negative perceptions and a feeling of lacking dignity or not mattering causing a further rift. Another fundamental component of her approach is the very definition of dignity, which Hicks notes is not to be confused with the concept of respect.

According to the Dignity Model, there are ten essential elements of dignity and a framework for understanding how attention to dignity can help to strengthen relationships, resolve conflicts, and make organizations more successful is presented. Mossman (2017) provides strategies for structuring classroom small group work, with a focus on addressing difficult or sensitive topics.

Escobar (2020) contends that students need to be trained to, “actively develop certain attitudes, or virtues, like humility, prudence, and patience” rather than passively listen to professors. But she feels that respect for human dignity is at odds with liberal individualism, something that is much more prominent on college campuses today (Escobar, 2020) and conveyed by educators.

Meanwhile, Kouritzin, Kolomic, Ellis, and Nakagawa (2020) assert that academic dignity needs to be reimagined and an academic dignity-centered approach applied to the institutional and structural levels of higher education as well.

K-12 educators also have resources such as The Dignity in Schools Campaign Model Code on Education and Dignity and some states such as New York have enacted dignity laws such as the Dignity for All Students Act. Tate Henderson Aldrich, an educator, explained his new dignity pedagogy for teaching remotely during COVID-19.


Should educators learn to teach with dignity? Why do you feel this is becoming an area of professional development for faculty?


Dignity, higher education, K-12, pedagogy, virtue, teaching and learning, curriculum design


Escobar, G. G. (2021). How (not) to promote human dignity through higher education. Public Discourse. Retrieved from http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2021/06/76365/.

Kouritzin, S., Kolomic, E., Ellis, T. F., & Nakagawa, S. (2020). Academic dignity: Countering the emotional experience of academia. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 194, 39–50. http://journalhosting.ucalgary.ca/index.php/cjeap/article/view/69856.

Mossman, I. (2017). Dignity and respect in the classroom. College Education Manager. Retrieved from http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/learning-hub/view/dignity-and-respect-in-the-classroom.

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