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Teaching and Learning

Home  >  Teaching and Learning  >  Difficult Dialogues
Difficult Dialogues

 Many teachers have experienced the classroom equivalent of "never talk about politics or religion at the dinner table." These and other hot topics are easy to discuss when you're among those who agree with you, and much more difficult to talk about - civilly at least - with those who don't. 

A lack of confidence in their ability to simultaneously challenge and protect their students leads many teachers to avoid difficult and contentious topics in the classroom. But a far better response is for teachers and professors themselves to learn how to use these issues to engage their students in productive discussions that increase learning and bring people together in a spirit of inquiry and understanding.

 The University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University have created a partnership to increase their faculties' skills at engaging in these "difficult dialogues," supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation's national Difficult Dialogues initiative. They have published a handbook for faculty members and other teachers telling their stories and detailing their experiences with a wide range of teaching strategies and classroom techniques. Start Talking tells the story of their partnership and presents many of their field-tested techniques. The book is arranged to follow the course of a five-day faculty intensive, with strategies, techniques, and reflections from thirty-five contributors. It is intended as a conversation-starter and field manual for professors and teachers who want to strengthen their teaching and engage their students more effectively in conversations about the most important issues of our times.

Download Difficult Dialogs

(319 KB)
Introduction: The story of the project
Featuring Faculty Fellowship, Faculty Intensive, and Books of the Year

(1,441 KB)
Day One: Ground Rules
Featuring Codes of Conduct, Academic Freedom, Contrapower Harassment, Tales from the Trenches, Silence, Quick Writing, Recognizing and Handling Disruptive Students, and Critical Incident Questionnaire

(1,512 KB)
Day Two: Rhetoric, Debate
Featuring Questions and Categories exercise, Five Ways to Look At It, Classroom Debates, and Radio Program (Justice Talking format)

(1,519 KB)
Day Three: Race, Class, Culture
Featuring Identity Groups, White Privilege, Encircled Circle, Circle of Objects, Hatful of Quotes, Five-Minute Rule, Using a Book to Explore Cultural Difference, and Culturally Responsive Teaching

(1,499 KB)
Day Four: Science, Religion
Featuring Role Playing, Cocktail Party, Panel Discussion, Class Research Project, Reframing the Discussion, Theological Arguments for Staying in the Conversation, and Using a Book to Explore Religion and Politics

(1,344 KB)
Day Five: Business, Politics, Social Justice
Featuring Film, Shared Writing, Student/Faculty Forum, Freedom of Speech, Academic Responsibility, Politics in the Classroom, and Making our Classrooms Safe for Ideas

(727 KB)
Featuring Small Group Discussion, Talking Circle, Reflective Writing, Transformations, and Assessment of Faculty and Student Outcomes

(724 KB)
Keep Talking
Featuring Modular Debate, Using a Book to Explore Alaska Native Issues, Lessons Learned, and New Beginnings.

NOTE: Many of the documents are in PDF format and require Adobe Acrobat Reader for viewing. Acrobat Reader software may be downloaded for free from Adobe Systems, Inc.

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