Difficult dialogues series strategies to facilitate controversial topics in the classroom
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Difficult Dialogues Series: Strategies to Facilitate Controversial Topics in the Classroom. Sue C. Jacobs, Ph.D. Shelia Kennison, Ph.D. OSU Difficult Dialogue Program. Team: Sue Jacobs, Farshid Jahanshahi Shelia Kennison, Jason Kirksey, Hong Lin, and Mimi Ward

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Difficult dialogues series strategies to facilitate controversial topics in the classroom

Difficult Dialogues Series: Strategies to Facilitate Controversial Topics in the Classroom

Sue C. Jacobs, Ph.D.Shelia Kennison, Ph.D.


Osu difficult dialogue program

OSU Difficult Dialogue Program

  • Team: Sue Jacobs, Farshid Jahanshahi Shelia Kennison, Jason Kirksey, Hong Lin, and Mimi Ward

  • Underlying context for difficult dialogues programs on campus include academic freedom; free speech and academic freedom in and out of classroom; pluralism and respect for diversity, inclusion


Today s assumption goals and format

Today’s Assumption, Goals, and Format

  • Our assumption is that as faculty members, we may sometime avoid bringing in controversial topics to our classrooms…doing so can increase our students’ critical thinking and respect for others and life views different than their own.

  • There are strategies for increasing dialogue of hot topics in a safe environment and to manage the conflict and encourage student learning through dialogue and taking different perspectives.

  • Format today is primarily interactive


Topics in your own classrooms

Topics in your own classrooms

  • What are they?

  • Which topics are talked about, ignored?

  • Which do you feel unprepared to deal with in the classroom?

  • Which have you dealt with in the classroom successfully?

  • Do you have examples from your experience of what has worked and has not?


Possible controversies issues to integrate into classroom discussions or assignments

Possible controversies/issues to integrate into classroom discussions or assignments

  • Race/ ethnicity

  • Gender

  • Religion

  • Sexual orientation

  • Social class/poverty

  • Abortion

  • Immigration

  • Language

  • Evolution

  • Environment and technology


Faculty fears

Faculty Fears

  • Talked previously about spontaneous class discussions and faculty fears, student fears

  • Focus today on planned assignments, dialogues

  • What are your fears or concerns?


Planned assignments faculty fears

Planned assignments:Faculty Fears

  • Threat of negative student evaluations

  • Student harassment of other students

  • Disapproval from colleague/administrators

  • Promotion/tenure concerns

  • Lack of skills for handling difficult dialogues

  • Discomfort with silence in the classroom

  • Lack of knowledge on the subject matter

  • Fear of political/religious profiling by students


Planned assignments faculty fears1

Planned assignments:Faculty Fears

  • Students will only give what they think I want

  • Losing Control of classroom dynamics

  • Emotionally charged

  • Faculty’s Perception of student reactions/emotions: Anxiety, Anger, Defensive and less often Sadness

  • Faculty’s Perceptions of Student reactions/behaviors: Student Cries, Student leaves classroom, Students Withdraw

  • Professors’ emotions: Anxiety, Disappointment, Uncertainty (Sue, et. al)


Planned assignments faculty fears2

Planned assignments:Faculty Fears

  • Threat of negative student evaluations

  • Student harassment of other students

  • Disapproval from colleague/administrators

  • Promotion/tenure concerns

  • Lack of skills for handling difficult dialogues

  • Discomfort with silence in the classroom

  • Lack of knowledge on the subject matter

  • Fear of political/religious profiling by students


Strategies for effective spontaneous discussions on controversial topics

Strategies for Effective Spontaneous Discussions on Controversial Topics

  • Before a discussion occurs:

    • Expect there to be incidences and plan ahead

    • Expect emotion and strong feelings

    • Set ground rules to create a safe space in the classroom and after class


Setting ground rules

Setting Ground Rules

  • Develop Rules

    Divide the larger group into smaller sub-groups of three to five individuals.

    Ask them to make a short list of desirable and undesirable classroom behaviors. Give the groups about five minutes to make their lists.

    Bring everyone back together, and then invite the groups to share their lists.

  • Achieve Consensus

    Combine similar items to create a list in each category that the class can agree on. Save these and display or refer to them regularly throughout the semester.


Setting ground rules1

Setting Ground Rules

  • Determine Sanctions

    Using a similar process, have the class develop sanctions for violations of the rules.

    Be prepared to negotiate on this; they may recommend harsher penalties than you want to enforce


Setting ground rules2

Setting Ground Rules

  • Other Options

    • Ask students to create ground rules; the instructor can consolidate all students’ written responses.

    • Pass out the syllabus with ground rules specified; ask students to return the syllabus with revisions, additions, or deletions.

    • See Handout for example


Sample ground rules

Sample Ground Rules

In this course, we will/may have class discussions.

• You must respect diverse points of view. We can agree to disagree.• You may not belittle or criticize personally another individual for holding a viewpoint different from you own.• Your use of language should be respectful of others or groups.

• You should be mindful of your non-verbal communication; not paying attention, sneering or sighing conveys a lack of respect.


More sample ground rules

More Sample Ground Rules

Should

  • Pay attention when others speak

  • Have cell phones on silent or turned off

  • Participate

  • Respect other students and professor

    Should Not

  • Chat with neighbors while the instructor or your classmates are speaking

  • Come to class late or leave early

  • Nap or use cell phones to text during class


Teach effective dialogue techniiques and active listening

Teach Effective Dialogue Techniiques and active listening

See Handout:

Nine Ground Rules for Difficult Dialogues

  • If someone pushes a “hot button” of yours, it’s okay to let the group know what it is and how it makes you feel.

  • Be as open and honest as you feel you can be. Try to move outside your comfort zone.

  • Respect each person’s right to be heard.

  • Realize that we are all teachers and learners.

  • Be an active participant. Remember that we participate in different ways.

  • Listen even when you do not want to listen.

  • Do not judge another person’s feelings

  • Focus on the behavior rather than the person

  • Do not ask persons to be spokespersons for their groups

    Active Listening Skills Checklist

  • Do you listen intently even when you disagree with someone?

  • Do you listen intently even when you have a difficult time understanding someone?

  • Do you listen intently when someone talks very slowly and deliberately

  • Do you hear only what you want to hear?

  • Are you aware of verbal and non verbal message?

  • Do you restate, summarize. And question to promote understanding?

  • Do you provide positive feedback through body language and “listening noises”?

  • Do you give people time to respond?

  • How do you make sure your biases so not interfere with your ability to listen?


Other options

Other Options

  • The one-minute rule

    • Each contribution is limited to one-minute

  • The rule of two

    • After a person contributes, two others must speak before the person can contribute again


Strategies for effective spontaneous discussions on controversial topics1

Strategies for Effective Spontaneous Discussions on Controversial Topics

  • When the discussion occurs

    • Students may be unfamiliar with listening to others’ points of view for understanding

    • Discussion is not debate; the goal for debating is to win. The goal of discussion is to understand.

    • Asserting facts may not change opinions.

    • Carefully monitor students’ reactions.


Strategies for effective spontaneous discussions on controversial topics2

Strategies for Effective Spontaneous Discussions on Controversial Topics

  • TALK ABOUT IT / DIALOGUE

  • Exchange

  • Discuss

  • Promote Understanding

  • Listening

  • No Decision


Strategies suggestions for assignments

Strategies/Suggestions for assignments

  • 1) ask students to write their own opinion on a topic anonymously (giving them credit for turning something in, without linking names to papers)

  • 2) present students with a summary of different viewpoints and then ask students to pick one viewpoint that is different from their own and to write a paper about that viewpoint, researching the evidence both for and against the view, using outside sources.

  • 3) students are asked to critique their own opinion in a third paper using a similar strategy as in paper 2.  They should present evidence for and against the view, using outside sources.

Use You tube clip, photos, short articles to give context, pose questions, assign a perspective and then either have students dialogue or write about:

Possible examples

  • http://www.pbs.org/pov/wagingaliving/video_classroom1.php

    poverty

  • http://video.pbs.org/video/2004467940

    fracking

    Any of the What would you do Videos?


Strategies suggestions for assignments1

Strategies/Suggestions for assignments

  • Any of the What would you do? Series Clips (see handout):

  • http://abcnews.go.com/WhatWouldYouDo/

  • Other examples from Hand out:

  • http://tinyurl.com/8sp2wcq

Use You tube clip, photos, short articles to give context, pose questions, assign a perspective and then either have students dialogue or write about:

Possible examples

  • http://www.pbs.org/pov/wagingaliving/video_classroom1.php

    poverty

  • http://video.pbs.org/video/2004467940

    fracking

    Any of the What would you do Videos?


Your suggestions

Your suggestions?


You may not see the fruits of your hard work

You May Not See the Fruits of Your Hard Work

  • You may not see the broadening of your students’ views; the broadening of may occur later.

  • Your class discussions may plant the seed.


Difficult dialogues at osu

Difficult Dialogues at OSU

  • Web page is closer to going up

  • We have obtained a listserv and you can join it soon!


Other resources

Other Resources

  • Start Talking (2008) http://www.uaa.alaska.edu/cafe/difficultdialogues/handbook.cfm

  • Harriger, K. J., & McMillan, J. J. (2007). Speaking of Politics: Preparing College Students for Democratic Citizenship through Deliberative Dialogue. Dayton, OH: Kettering Foundation.

  • Sue, D. W., Torino, G. C., Capodilupo, C. M., Rivero, D. P., & Lin, A. I. (2009). How White faculty perceive and react to difficult dialogues on race: Implications for education and training. The Counseling Psychologist, 37 (8), 1090-1115.

  • Warren, L. Hot Moments in the classroom. Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard University. http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/html/icb.topic58474/hotmoments.html

  • Difficult Dialogue National Resource Center


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