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Office of Access and Opportunity

Facilitating Discussion in the Classroom

The university is committed to fostering a diverse and vibrant learning, living and working environment where every member of its community feels valued, respected and that they have conditions that support their work and development. We are also committed to preparing culturally competent leaders who are bold thinkers and committed problem solvers.

Every student should have the opportunity to critically engage with the world around them and address the social challenges that face us all. Therefore, instructors must be prepared to facilitate the difficult conversations around these often sensitive social challenges.

In an effort to help instructors minimize conflict and maximize student learning, we recommend the following:

  1. Create a classroom environment that, from the first day, sets ground rules for discussion and makes it clear that all students are included in the work of the class. Please review the following resources for more information:
  2. Recognize the diversity of opinions and backgrounds of your students. Learning takes place from exposure to a wide variety of views. Be open to all perspectives, and ask students to voice their points responsibly.

  3. Be prepared… Even if you do not think there will be a reaction to a topic that is potentially sensitive, prepare yourself to “Manage Hot Moments” in the classroom. Please review the following resources for more information:
  4. Ask students to take time out for reflection. Assign a writing exercise about the issue as a calming follow up to a discussion, or assign a research paper or essay in which student must argue for the position with which they disagree.

The information above was adapted from University of California Berkeley’s Office of Educational Development and San Francisco State University’s Center for Teaching and Faculty Development

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