April 19, 2014

Teaching Sensitive Topics

Should you decide to focus this study on the topic of homosexuality, it may be helpful to peruse the following suggestions adapted from U. C. Berkeley’s Office of Educational Development:

1. Create a classroom environment that sets ground rules for discussion and makes it clear that all students are included in the work of the class.

2. Recognize the diversity of opinions and backgrounds of your students.

3. Be prepared. Even if you do not think there will be a reaction to an issue you raise, plan ahead what you will do if you encounter one. Know yourself and your own emotional triggers. Don’t personalize remarks.

4. Focus the discussion on the topic, not the individual student.

5. Protect all students equally during moments of potential conflict. Seek to draw out understanding and communication as well as opinions.

6. Foster an environment of debate and dialogue in which it is OK to disagree.

7. If a student suffers from an emotional reaction or angry outburst because of a sensitive topic discussion, acknowledge it, and ask them if they would like to remain or leave for a while.

(Adapted from ctfd.sfsu.edu/feature/top-ten-tips-for-addressing-sensitive-topics-and-maintaining-civility-in-the-classroom.htm)