Source: Karp, David. The Little Book of Restorative Justice for Colleges and Universities, 2019

The SIP Squad is hosting a two-part series on trauma-informed, restorative approaches to building and sustaining conflict positivity in our classrooms and across campus. In Part 1 of the series, we invite you to consider how restorative practices generally would create a more equitable classroom and campus. In next week’s Part 2 of the series, SIP 15.7, we’ll unpack specifically how you can incorporate restorative practices in your classroom.

Managing a classroom environment and getting to know your students on top of the robust list of tasks on your plate can be challenging. Making time to create and maintain a classroom atmosphere centered on curriculum and relationship may help you navigate various challenges, such as:

  • Encouraging classroom engagement and connections 
  • Managing classroom discussions that become heated 
  • Creating shared classroom norms or guidelines 
  • Having a difficult conversation with a student about suspected plagiarism or cheating 

Embedding restorative practices helps to create a classroom culture that normalizes conflicting perspectives and experiences through proactive and reactive approaches.  For now, we invite you to consider how restorative practices generally would create a more equitable classroom and campus. 


Take a SIP of This: Consider a Restorative Approach to a Conflict Positive Classroom 

“Restorative practices” (RJ) is an all-encompassing term for the ways in which restorative justice is implemented. Amplify RJ’s definition states “Restorative Justice is a
philosophy and set of practices, rooted in Indigenous teachings, that emphasize our interconnection by repairing relationships when harm occurs while proactively building and
maintaining relationships to prevent future harm” (2020). Conflict of any kind can bring about harm or impacts those involved and can ripple out into the classroom. This relational-focused philosophy can be applied to many different situations, including community building, issues-focused conversations, interpersonal conflict, and addressing problematic actions in the classroom.


Some background:

Restorative practices have become more widely adopted in various contexts: the legal system, workplace conflicts, community disputes, k-12 education classroom and behavior intervention, and in higher education.

The restorative justice philosophy is rooted in many indigenous cultures from around the world that offer a different worldview from dominant Western notions of discipline and punishment. Fania Davis in The Little Book of Race and Restorative Justice, speaks to African views of justice: “Though inherently good in the African-centered view, humans make mistakes. Yet, they are capable of learning and changing. African justice making, rather than an occasion to inflict punishment, is an opportunity to teach, learn, reemphasize social values, and reaffirm the bonds of our inherent interconnectedness” (23).

Restorative justice within a Western context has origins in 1970’s in the Canadian legal system. Within education, discipline systems reliant on punitive practices (zero-tolerance and exclusionary discipline) left educators looking for more meaningful ways to encourage learning, encouraging behavior change, and addressing the root of the problem. Additionally, punitive discipline has often resulted in inequitable outcomes for students of color and with disabilities. Higher education also adopted a more punitive-minded system of addressing issues via a Student Code of Conduct that mirrors legal system processes. Restorative alternatives within colleges and universities have been implemented in tandem with or in lieu of traditional student conduct responses.

However, restorative practices can be used in many capacities outside of systemic interventions in higher education!


A shift on how we think about accountability: 

Restorative justice shifts dominant notions of accountability. In traditional or retributive justice systems, accountability is applied to the “responsible” party, often through punishment. Once the punishment is complete, the person responsible for the violation becomes accountable according to the system or mechanism that delivered the punishment. However, those directly impacted or involved in the situation may not feel as though accountability has been achieved.   

Restorative justice encourages active accountability, where the responsible party takes responsibility for what happened and works to make things right by addressing the harms caused (Karp). To accomplish this restoratively, those who have been involved or impacted by the situation have a voice and role in repair by collectively identifying the needs of the parties (education, safety, accountability, and apology are just a few examples) and creating a plan to address them. Look for upcoming SIP 15.7 for ways to utilize RJ in your classroom or office. 


Still Thirsty? Take another SIP of: Consider a Restorative Approach to a Conflict Positive Classroom 

Check out these books, podcasts, articles and more on restorative justice: 


Visit The Well at for more great ideas and resources for Strong Instructional Practices in your higher education classroom!