Running Class Discussions on Divisive Topics Is Tricky
When humans feel threatened, they often go into fight-or-flight mode in which their ability to think critically is compromised. When conflict happens in the classroom, teachers must help students get unstuck from this instinctive fight-or-flight response. This article discusses the Reflective Structured Dialogue, a system developed by marriage and family therapists that helps people change their response to a threatening situation.
The basic steps for creating a Reflective Structured Dialogue in class include:
- The dialogues have a facilitator who guides the conversation along pre-agreed lines.
- Participants are encouraged to reflect before they speak.
- Focus on asking "curious" questions in a highly structured format, with people taking set turns to speak and doing so under a time limit, with the facilitator following a script.
- Open the dialog by having participants share a story that informed her or his position.
- Discuss the values that underlie the experiences.
- Share how one might be pulled in competing directions regarding the issue.