Navigating Challenging Classroom Conversations

Recently the Teaching Center partnered with Belmont’s Faculty Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (FIDE) Committee to host the mini-workshop “Navigating Challenging Conversations: Growth Opportunities with Our Students and Ourselves.”

Through this workshop FIDE committee members discussed the importance of facilitating diverse ideas, perspectives and experiences with our students. While important opportunities, these conversations can often create challenges for maintaining a safe and positive learning environment. As a result, FIDE identified three steps to help faculty build respect while ensuring everyone has a voice in the classroom.

First, faculty should establish and maintain ground guidelines for respectful, engaged dialogue. For example, faculty could ask students to  help co-construct conversation guidelines, or ask students to try to understand each other’s perspectives before responding.

Second, faculty should promote different perspectives by modeling open-mindness. For example, during a conversation, faculty could invite those who have not contributed yet to join the discussion, or faculty might lead students in considering counter-approaches to an idea. Faculty could also offer students follow-up opportunities to continue or respond to the conversation by visiting faculty during office hours or emailing faculty their thoughts or concerns.

Finally, faculty should reflect, gather feedback and refine the approach. For example, if tension increase during the conversation, faculty could offer a five minute reflection exercise where students reflect, write and think about the topic and why it has become challenging. Faculty could also develop a “ticket out the door” formative assessment where students anonymously provide their perspective on the topic/discussion and what worked or could be improved.

FIDE committee members offered several additional examples on how to implement each of these steps in the classroom. The full resource is available here.

Belmont’s Faculty Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (FIDE) Committee is comprised of Michelle Corvette, Chuck Hodgin, Mona Ivey-Soto, Loren Mulraine, Doug Crews, Edgar Diaz-Cruz, Mary Mayorga, Marieta Velikova, Don Byrd, Matt Heard and Eric Holt.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *