Difficult Dialogues

As Libby Roderick the Director of UAA/APU Difficulty Dialogues Initiative at the University of Alaska Anchorage states, “Institutions of higher education represent one of the most significant venues in which the free exchange of ideas can and must take place, civil discourse can be modeled and practiced, and individuals can encounter different ways of thinking and acting within a context of respect and mutual learning.”

However, it can be a challenge for many faculty to lead class discussions on difficult topics.  Faculty from the University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University developed two useful handbooks which provide strategies for engaging controversial topics in the classroom.  Start Talking includes content on creating ground rules, facilitating debate in the classroom, teaching about race, class, culture, science, and religion, and much more.  Stop Talking includes chapters on indigenizing education, assessment, incorporating reflection into dialogue, and more. This book was inspired by a group of faculty focusing on more traditional Alaskan Native methods of teaching and learning and was designed to trigger conversation and reflection on effective teaching practices in higher education.

Angela Linse at PSU suggests three strategies to facilitate inclusive class discussions, including getting to know your students and cultivating a sense of community in your classroom; developing warm-up activities to build a safe space for students to practice new skills; and preparing how to respond to conflict.  To learn more, visit the resource on Techniques for Facilitating Classroom Discussion.

More Resources:

Handbook for Facilitating Difficult Conversations in the Classroom
Difficult Dialogues and Stereotype Threat: Facilitating Effective Classroom Discussions
Difficult Dialogues at the University of Alaska Anchorage
Difficult Dialogues at Vanderbilt University
Difficult Dialogues Initiative- Advancing Campus Goals through Difficult Dialogues
Difficult Dialogues National Resource Center
Facilitating Effective Discussions
Facilitating Effective Group Discussions


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