Engaging Diverse Viewpoints in the Classroom

      3 Comments on Engaging Diverse Viewpoints in the Classroom

In early February, I attended the Engaging Diverse Viewpoints in the Classroom workshop at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. We started out discussing ground rules for having a constructive group discussion and skills facilitators can utilize in the classroom, including how to initiate the conversation, model effective communication skills and processes, use validation, reflect what you are hearing, etc. After learning about helpful teaching techniques, we engaged in a discussion about how to manage students having concerns and different viewpoints about the election and the subsequent fears about living in our country. Topics that were brought up included 1) teaching valid and appropriate evidence, 2) how people form beliefs, 3) how facts are influenced by our own values and interpretation, 4) differences between opinions and values, 5) one’s responsibility and possible fallout for having a minority opinion, 6) self-disclosure in the classroom, and 7) professors being in a role of authority and students being a vulnerable population. One faculty member discussed how she handled generating a fruitful discussion in her classroom by first stating that she was talking to her students not as a professor but as a self-identified white, lesbian, female before sharing her emotions and thoughts with her students the day after the election. This provided the students a safe place to discuss their fears and support each other, and even allowed one student to express a dissenting viewpoint, in which he did not share the same concerns as other students about Trump being elected. Often we treat students as just students, who are there to acquire concrete knowledge, and not as individuals who can learn valuable skills from us to help them throughout their careers. In my opinion, this does students a disservice. By encouraging students to engage in difficult discussion in the classroom we begin to treat students as a whole person, help them learn effective communication skills they can use in many different areas of their lives, and cultivates a safe environment for students to thrive not just survive.

3 thoughts on “Engaging Diverse Viewpoints in the Classroom

  1. Adrienne

    I’m really glad someone went to a workshop on this- really valuable topics to consider. Thanks for including them here in such an organized and clear way! I like how the one faculty member addressed a difficult topic by first stepping out of the role of instructor (so to speak). If I’m ever in a similar situation, I think I’d do the same.


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