Creating Respectful Spaces to Debate Uncomfortable Topics: Allowing all Voices to be Heard in a Curriculum that Requires Socio-Political Exchange in an Era of Contentiousness
Concurrent Session 6
In many of the social sciences, dialectical debate and exchange of philosophical ideas is part of the curriculum. In the current context, ideals have become polarized and debate in public forum is often personal and attacking. In this session we will explore how to create safe online debate forums.
In the social sciences, debate about policy, philosophy, and the exchange of philosophical ideas is a standard part of curricula. In traditional classrooms, students are expected to debate ideas and to provide sound ideology, theory, and data to support concepts presented in the context of debate. Most curricula based debate is meant to create synergy of ideas on topics relevant to students’ learning in a particular course or content area. Students’ discussions and debating of ideas is to be established on the foundation of sound research, preparation, and focus on critical elements of data, audience, and strategy. The importance of debate in policy work, legislative activity and advocacy, and public education is critical; therefore, it is a seminal part of social science curricula.
However, recently, public debate forums have become focused on personal attacks, negativity, and the exchange of insults over ideas. This is disconcerting given that future professionals are learning from watching this behavior. In order to mitigate this negative effect, it is critical for instructors to set parameters for discussion and debate that is healthy, focused on research, data and strategy, and that is meant to facilitate professional expression rather than digressing to emotional insults, bullying, or childish name calling. In this session, we will explore how we have set up these types of exchanges in our courses and share how we establish, and enforce, such parameters. Attendees will also have the opportunity to share how they focus on ensuring safety in their own classrooms. This session is meant to promote an exchange of ideas and strategies that can be taken back and implemented in online classes immediately.
Session Outcomes are as follow. Attendees will be able to: (1) describe current socio-political trends in public debate; (2) describe dialectical learning as pedagogy; (3) identify 3 ways in which negative social exchanges disrupt learning; and (4) list 4 strategies for creating safe spaces in discussion forums and reducing the risk of personal attacks.