Post navigation

Controversial Topics and Difficult Dialogues

Feb 14, 12:30-2pm, Rouss Robertson 256 &
Feb 15, 11:30am-1pm, McLeod 5060

Register here for one of these sessions.

Effectively Engaging Students in Critical Conversations in the Classroom
A workshop with Libby Roderick, Director, Difficult Dialogues Initiative, University of Alaska, Anchorage


Colleges and universities strive to be civil venues for learning and the robust exchange of ideas on controversial issues. However, while many classrooms increasingly suffer from the combative attitudes, racial and gender tensions, and intellectual dogmatism that characterize discourse in 21st century America, numerous faculty report a tendency to avoid controversial topics or to be unsure how to proceed when charged topics surface because they lack the skills and strategies to ensure productive discussions.

In this interactive workshop, participants will learn a wide range of strategies to effectively engage students on controversial topics in the classroom, strategies that have successfully been applied to such issues as gun control, climate change, race relations, sexual harassment/assault, gay marriage, immigration policy, and more. Specifically, participants will 1) explore and practice strategies for effectively introducing controversial topics into the classroom; 2) become aware of  the broader context of the national Difficult Dialogues initiative, 3) briefly examine the rights and responsibilities of academic freedom, and 4) discuss how to effectively respond to unexpected controversy and/or disruptive students in the classroom. The workshop is based upon Start Talking: A Handbook for Engaging Difficult Dialogues in Higher Education, a field manual for educators who wish to strengthen their teaching and engage students more effectively in conversations about the most important issues of our time.  Participants will receive a complementary hard copy of the book.

Libby Roderick is Director of the Difficult Dialogues Initiative and Associate Director of the Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence at the University of Alaska, Anchorage (UAA) and Vice Chair of the Difficult Dialogues National Resource Center. She conducts faculty workshops across the U.S. and in South Africa on difficult dialogues, indigenous ways of teaching and learning, and creating collegial departments in academe. She is the editor of Alaska Native Cultures and Issues; Associate Editor of Start Talking:  A Handbook of Engaging Difficult Dialogues in Higher Education;  co-author of Stop Talking:  Indigenous Ways of Teaching and Learning and Difficult Dialogues in Higher Education, and editor of Toxic Friday:  Resources for Addressing Faculty Bullying in Higher Education. A Yale University summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, Libby is also an internationally recognized, award-winning singer/songwriter and recording artist.

Cosponsored by the Center for Teaching Excellence, the McIntire School of Commerce, the School of Nursing, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the Office of the Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity