Working Group on Classroom Dialogue

As part of the University’s Freedom of Expression series, the Teaching Engagement Program in partnership with the Graduate School and UO’s award-winning interactive theater troupe Rehearsals for Life formed a small teaching development cohort dedicated to classroom dialogue; the group sought synthesis between openness and rigor, inclusion and respectfulness in class discussion. It met during Winter and Spring 2018.

Research links core goals of a university education—developing a disposition toward complex thinking, problem-solving skills, even civic mindedness—to students’ meaningful interactions with diverse peer groups that challenge their preconceptions. But for faculty and GEs teaching in a volatile and divisive national context, it can feel risky to ask socially urgent questions and to initiate dialogue that may destabilize students’ assumptions.

The Working Group on Classroom Dialogue was comprised of eight faculty-graduate student teacher pairs, enriching the possibilities for lasting mentorship relationships and giving participants a partner to share materials back with departmental colleagues. The group worked to:

  • Develop proactive strategies and tools for cultivating inclusive classrooms with an emphasis on building students’ reflective, critical, and constructive thinking across contexts;
  • Develop responsive strategies and tools for facilitating challenging or heated moments in the classroom with an emphasis on balancing development of students’ listening skills with strengthening of their agency, voice, and resilience;
  • Create professional development materials for sharing and promoting the above strategies and tools to home departments and programs, and through an open-invitation teaching workshop in spring term.

Members of the group served as panelists for an open invitation teaching development event in Spring 2018.

To help share some of the group's insights, TEP worked with Rehearsals for Life and OR Media to produce videos of different challenging classroom scenarios and possible strategies of intervention.  Found at the link below (UO Duck ID required to access), the videos are intended to promote discussion of pluses and minuses of various strategies, with "less effective" and "more effective" options for consideration; they do not present "best practices" suitable for every context or situation. TEP is happy to meet and discuss more specific ideas for discussion strategies.

Link to videos of classroom scenarios