Courageous Conversations Resources
Congratulations! You are a social studies educator (or an educator in any content area) and by virtue of this amazing profession, you will inevitably face the difficult conversations in your classroom. Not only will the list of resources below help you create and sustain a positive classroom environment that fosters conversation, but the resources will also assist educators in how to approach those hot topics that pop up on a whims notice and how to steer those conversations into standards related objectives and goals.
An open educational resource list that provides resources, guidance documents, videos, blogs, and other tools on the topic of tough conversations from around the world.
This lesson provides the foundation for the lessons that follow. Because the events and issues at the center of this exploration are complex and disturbing, an essential first step is to create a safe and reflective classroom where students feel they can speak honestly about difficult issues without being judged or shut down by others, where they develop listening skills and the ability to hear perspectives different from their own, and where they learn to have civil discourse and not debate. Students are then given the opportunity to express and process their initial emotional reactions to Ferguson as they develop a common understanding of the basic events.
Teaching controversial subjects is an inherent part of some courses and disciplines. Topics like race, culture, gender, and/or sexual orientation can come up in many fields, and any course dealing with current events presents an opportunity for socially-challenging or politically-charged topics to arise spontaneously in class discussions. How we manage those discussions, however, can greatly impact how useful the conversations are to our instructional goals, and what sort of impact they have on the dynamics of the class. Many of the suggestions below focus on pre-planned discussions, but many of the techniques can also be applied to discussions that pop up unexpectedly.
The climate in the classroom has the potential to be difficult at various points of a semester. The following resources were curated with the collaboration of Paulette Granberry-Russell of the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, Melissa McDaniels of The Graduate School, and Jim Lucas of the Office of the Associate Provost of Undergraduate Education.
In most difficult conversations, there are different perceptions of the same reality. I think I’m right and the person with whom I disagree thinks she’s right. I don’t see myself as the problem – I know I make sense. What’s often hard to see is that what the other person is saying also makes sense.
To provide teachers with a framework for tackling sensitive topics, we have compiled a tip sheet to use when facilitating discussions or teaching about sensitive topics in the classroom. These techniques will provide a foundation of confidence for the facilitator and can be used in elementary, secondary or postsecondary settings.
Some teachers may be tempted to avoid teaching about certain issues or topics. But with the right preparation, you can, and certainly should, create a safe space for students to respectfully communicate and have dialogue on sensitive, yet critical, topics. Listening to and learning about different viewpoints also provides an authentic opportunity to further students’ critical thinking skills.
As students continue to process [events from the last year], we hope you’ll continue to make space in your classes for discussing what happened—and what students need. To offer a bit of support for that, we reached out to our advisory board to find out how they’d begin these conversations. We offer some recommendations for psychological first aid, including listening, protecting, modeling—and remembering to care for yourself.
For most teachers, leading classroom discussion on difficult topics is a perennial challenge. Part of the challenge lies in the fact that we never fully know which issues will be “hot buttons” for our students. Conversations can become heated very quickly, and before long, it can feel like the class is careening out of control. This guide seeks to help teachers feel more confident leading difficult dialogues by encouraging reflection on how such discussions connect with larger learning goals, and by providing specific strategies and resources that teachers can use to create more productive conversations in their classrooms.
This handbook is written by faculty for faculty. While the resources in this handbook can be used on their own, they are meant to be part of the faculty mini-course: Facilitating Difficult Conversations in the Classroom. In this handbook you will find specific designs, approaches, and techniques to ensure that the classroom is a safe space for students to have conversation about issues that matter. The faculty mini-course explores how to facilitate difficult conversations in the classroom through small and large group discussions, role plays, case studies, and demonstrations of new techniques with opportunities to practice them.