Dec. 22, 2015: Controversial Topics and Difficult Dialogues Training: Effectively Engaging Students in Critical Conversations

by Michelle Saport  |   

Tuesday, Dec. 22, 9-11 a.m. UAA/APU Consortium Library, Room 307

As our campus communities become ever more diverse, and as national and local issues intensify, potentially charged issues of power, privilege and identity are ever more likely to surface in those discussions. How do we help our students talk about the critical issues of race, class and gender relations? How do we model for them ways to grapple with issues such as gun control, gay marriage, institutional racism and climate change?

Most of us receive little or no training in effective ways to successfully engage students in these critical conversations. In this interactive workshop, participants will focus on hands-on learning strategies to effectively introduce controversial topics into discussions. The focus is primarily for classroom use, but the strategies are transferable to other venues as well. Specifically, participants will:

  1. Be introduced to the national Difficult Dialogues in Higher Education movement and projects;
  2. Briefly examine the rights and responsibilities of academic freedom in a university context; and
  3. Actively explore a variety of strategies for intentionally introducing discipline-appropriate difficult dialogues in learning environments.

The workshop will be based on Start Talking: A Handbook for Engaging Difficult Dialogues in Higher Education (2008). The publication was developed as part of a Ford Foundation grant as a field manual for educators who want to more effectively engage their students in conversations about the most important issues of our time. It explores productive ways to engage difficult dialogues in classroom and other academic settings.

Libby Roderick is associate director of the Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence at the University of Alaska, Anchorage (UAA), where she focuses on issues related to difficult dialogues, effective teaching to diverse student populations, promoting collegiality within academic departments, educating about sustainability and climate change and 21st century trends in higher education. Libby also serves as the director of the Difficult Dialogues initiative at UAA. She is associate editor of Start Talking; co-author of Stop Talking: Indigenous Ways of Teaching and Learning and Difficult Dialogues in Higher Education; editor of Alaska Native Cultures and Issues and author of numerous articles. She is producing a booklet and DVD on effectively responding to faculty-to-faculty bullying in academic departments, due out this winter. Libby serves as vice president of the Difficult Dialogues National Resource Center, and is also an internationally recognized singer/songwriter.

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