Challenging discussions in the classroom can be a powerful agent for broadening perspectives. How is this being done well at Western?
We encourage Western faculty, staff, and students to nominate an instructor whose teaching practices reflect this year's Showcase theme, Difficult Conversations. Faculty may also apply to be either featured or profiled in this year's issue of the INNOVATIVE TEACHING SHOWCASE, an annual series publication featuring best practices of Western's most dynamic instructors.
This year's “Difficult Conversations” Showcase seeks to honor faculty who facilitate important conversations in their courses, embracing challenges and promoting communication strategies that both support learning goals and serve students in life beyond college. Participating in debates and intense discussions can feel uncomfortable, but practice in this area is essential as “students learn to speak in critical and democratic ways by watching people in positions of power and authority model these processes” (Brookfield & Preskill, 2005). As we step deeper—in society, at our institutions, and as individuals—into inclusion & equity work, developing the skills and the “art” of engaging in challenging dialogue is essential for progress.
“Sexuality, race, gender, politics, and religion come quickly to mind as difficult topics to discuss, and for many of us they are... Anytime we feel vulnerable or our self-esteem is implicated, when the issues at stake are important and the outcome uncertain, when we care deeply about what is being discussed or about the people with whom we are discussing it, there is potential for us to experience the conversation as difficult.” (Stone, Patton, & Heen, 2010)
We are looking for faculty who are willing to share their strategies for navigating difficult conversations in a variety of ways, such as:
Raising challenging questions, addressing how they could become controversial, contentious, or isolating, and modeling pathways for constructive debate and possible solutions.
Exploring privilege, power, and oppression dynamics in a way that bolsters trust and supports students' identities.
Employing pre-discussion strategies such as providing context to texts, texts with multiple viewpoints, and terminologies to help inform discussion, and other methods to set the tone for constructive discussions.
Utilizing techniques such as critical incident questionnaires for students to do critical self-reflection or using background surveys to inform teaching and meet students' needs.
Addressing social positioning and personal bias by inviting students to investigate their implicit biases, knowledge gaps, and assumptions before entering difficult conversations.
Facilitating rich experiences to transform and expand thinking about ideas, beliefs, and values.
Please visit the Showcase Nomination and Application Form by Wed. Feb. 19 to learn more and let us know who should be highlighted.
The CIIA's advisory board will select instructors soon for the 2019-20 Innovative Teaching Showcase, to be developed from March through May, and published in June 2020.