Guidelines for Discussing Difficult Topics

Topics come up out of the blue, and an immediate response is usually called for. This article from the University of Michigan suggests taking these 3 steps..

  • Acknowledge the student who raised the issue while noting that students may vary in their responses.
  • Decide whether you are ready and willing to engage with the topic right away.
  • Quickly assess whether the class would like to spend time sharing views about the topic.

If students want to have a dialogue, but you want to wait, schedule a discussion for a later class and suggest ways that students can prepare.

This article suggests additional steps when discussing controversial topics, including…

  • Identifying a clear purpose
  • Establishing ground rules
  • Providing a common base for understanding
  • Summarizing discussion and gathering student feedback
  • Handling issues that involve the instructor’s identity