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Difficult Classroom Conversations

In many courses, the students’ learning process and sometimes the learning outcomes depend upon their ability to explore controversial issues in open classroom discussions. Given the diversity of background, opinion, experience, and perspective that characterizes many classrooms in the contemporary university, professors must be prepared for classroom conflicts stemming from moral disagreements, cultural flash points, and social misunderstandings.

Utilizing a few key strategies can help you and your students generate a full, engaging dialogue which allows room for tensions and disagreements, and at the same time avoids the pitfalls that can turn a heated conversation into one that produces only negative feelings without any movement toward mutual understanding or respect.

Below is a set of resources that might be useful in framing and guiding the kind of classroom discussions that might get students out of their comfort zones without making them feel unsafe or unfairly judged for their beliefs or backgrounds.