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Strategy 2: Planning Ahead

If there is a chance that controversy may arise in your classroom, plan to establish ground rules for the discussion. In class, an instructor can present ground rules and work with students to accept or modify these guidelines or norms for conduct during the discussion. Some suggestions include the following:

  • Help students understand they have the right to be safe, but not necessarily comfortable.
  • Provide anger management training and reflection early in the semester.
  • Ask students to reflect on their own conflict/argumentative style/approach.
  • Be willing to listen to the stories no one wants to hear.
  • Help students understand the difference between a “fight” and an argument.
  • Respect one another's views.
  • Criticize ideas, not individuals.
  • Commit to learning, not debating.
  • Avoid inflammatory language.

Difficult Dialogues Resources and References: Theory and Context