Preparing for Challenging Discussions

When preparing for a challenging discussion it’s helpful to think about two issues:

  • Encouraging a productive classroom environment
  • Structuring the discourse

A Productive Classroom Environment

One of the first steps to foster a classroom environment that promotes respect, learning and listening is to establish some discussion “ground rules”. Kieran Morrow, Esq., Baruch’s Chief Diversity Officer/Title IX, Section 504, and ADA Coordinator from the Office of Diversity, Compliance, and Equity Initiatives suggests this resource from Catalyst:


Another resource to prepare the class for the ambiguities that may come with open dialogue is this TED Talk from Brené Brown, which comes from Allison Lehr Samuels, Director of the CTL and Lecturer in the Department of Management.

Structuring the Discussion

In some cases, it’s helpful to just give students time and space to talk. This can be particularly meaningful to our students who typically are very busy juggling their work, internships and life responsibilities with school, leaving them little time for informal socialization with their peers.

For faculty who want a more focused discussion, Professor Elisabeth Gareis, Department of Communication Studies suggests “My advice would be to tie the discussion into the subject matter of the class or the discipline at hand. The Chronicle has put together a very good collection of essays that may serve as the basis for lessons, analyses, and assignments.”

Diana Hamilton, Acting Director of the Baruch College Writing Center offers, “If faculty want it to feel more structured, providing a specific readings framing the discussion as a response to it could be helpful. It gives everyone something to build on, which can be especially helpful for students who may not have a lot of context for US politics. Depending on the class, analyzing a data set (lead-up polls vs. exit polls, demographic breakdown of votes, 2012-2016 vote comparisons, the map of NYC votes by district, etc.) could also be a way of making it feel more structured.

Click here for resources from the New York Times for structuring your class discussion post-election.

Next step…. starting the discussion

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