Creating an inclusive and civil classroom when discussing hot topics

October 10, 2016

In August, Dr. Judy Bense hosted an informal discussion of how the UWF community can work together to positively impact the campus community and society at large following the difficult events of the summer, the Black Lives Matter response, and during ongoing political tensions related to the Presidential election. An audience question during this discussion asked how faculty and students might best respond to hot discussions related to Black Lives Matter and the ongoing discussion of the U.S. Presidential election in November.

The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) at the University of Michigan recently published two blog posts and a resource page with advice to faculty who have concerns about creating a civil and inclusive community, especially when a class discussion touches on challenging political and current events topics or incidents of hate, bias, or discrimination.

Although students might experience strong emotions when they encounter these discussions, they represent “teachable moments” for skills many instructors identify as important learning outcomes for their courses and academic programs. Examples include the following:

  •  Critically evaluate evidence and analyze complex arguments.
  • Communicate in a professionally appropriate manner.
  • Regulate behavior when interacting with diverse groups to demonstrate self-awareness and cultural competence.
  • Speak and listen in ways that promote learning, civil discourse, and thoughtful argumentation.

The CRLT blog provides links to resources instructors can use in their classes to promote these learning outcomes. The blogs also discuss how faculty can manage stress they might experience when negotiating a difficult discussion, including advice for self-care that instructors can share with students who might feel targeted or experience stress from these discussions.

Dr. Doug Thompson, Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion can assist faculty who have questions about promoting inclusive classrooms and appropriate responses to specific types of incidents in class. You can contact him at 474-2056 ( 

In January, Dr. Lusharon Wiley will facilitate a CUTLA workshop that will help faculty lead and manage challenging discussions skillfully. Mark your calendars: Communication for Faculty Leadership: Dispelling the Illusion, January 27, 2017, noon – 2:00 PM, CUTLA Workshop Room (Suite 201, BLDG 53). Reserve a seat by sending an RSVP through the CUTLA calendar (


Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) (September 17, 2016). Responding to incidents of hate speech. Blog post published on the CRLT web site. Retrieved from:

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