Critical Conversations Speaker Series

Critical Conversations logo
Critical Conversations Toolkit: Furthering the Conversation

General Tips

  1. Foster an open-minded discussion through your tone and approach. Emphasize to your students or group that the conversation is an opportunity to both learn about others’ perspectives and express your own. Encourage participants to “listen to understand” rather than “listen to respond.” Normalize the conversation by underscoring that the uncomfortable feeling of discussing difficult subjects is normal and a sign that the conversation is authentic.
  2. Set realistic and fair goals for the conversations and discussions by inviting the group to participate in goal setting. Do not try to sway your students’ and others’ opinions. Strive to create an environment of open communication that reflects the value of civil dialogue. Explicitly stating ground rules and inviting revision demonstrates that you value transparent dialogue and are willing to “walk the walk.”
  3. Our greatest opportunity for growth manifests when we ponder and discuss ideas that challenge our beliefs. Be aware that sometimes this challenge can sound like hostility or anger. Remain aware of tones and body language, both of your own and of discussion participants. Be prepared to work with students and peers on how to work through difficult moments in conversation.
  4. Be as prepared as possible. Familiarity with the topic will ensure you are able to facilitate an effective discussion.
  5. Structure the discussion in a way that allows time for students or participants to gather their thoughts prior to sharing, and strive to hold 5 minutes for writing/processing at the conclusion of the discussion. 
  6. Additional resources are available on campus should your students or group desire a more in-depth approach. Do not feel like you must be an expert on the topics discussed.


Points of Discussion to Consider Following the Speaking Engagement:

  1. What were the main themes the speaker(s) addressed? How do those themes relate to our campus environment?
  2. What points of view resonated with you? Why?
  3. What are the points of view challenged you? Why?
  4. Were there points of view you found confusing? Why?
  5. How do these points of view align with your experience of Auburn’s culture? How do they not?


Incorporating Critical Conversations in Class

  1. Create discussion threads on Canvas for students to share their immediate thoughts and opinions about the speaking event.
  2. Have students take notes on the main ideas/arguments from each speaker. Ask for feedback on those ideas and then probe by asking what students think should have or could have been included as an additional point.
  3. Begin class with a “Question of the Day” related to one statement that stood out from the event. One way to weave this into the course might be taking class roll by prompting students with the question and then having them reply when their name on the roll is called.
  4. Create a Canvas assignment asking students to explain, in one paragraph, their viewpoint on the topic the speaker addressed. Encourage students to address perspectives they didn’t agree with or were confused by with special attention to why they were confused. Then, have students peer-review each other to comment on the response and articulate a brief takeaway from their partner’s paragraph (one word or phrase). It would be helpful to pair students ahead of time.
  5. Encourage students to email the speaker to communicate what they learned from the presentation. If the speaker replies, have the student share the reply with the class.
  6. Related Article: Facilitating Challenging Conversations in Your Classes


Roundtable Discussions

  1. Assign the role of a moderator for the group ahead of time to facilitate the conversation.
  2. The moderator should create a list of discussion points based on the main themes of the event and share them via email or group message. Others can comment on, add to, and edit discussion points before meeting.
  3. Begin with the first topic, and allow each person at the table the opportunity to provide insight. The moderator’s role is to keep each speaker on-topic and to allow time for each willing person’s viewpoint to be heard before moving on to the next topic.
  4. Use time limits for each topic or for each person to share to ensure that all points of discussion are addressed.
  5. Have each participant write a personal reflection on the topic discussed. At your meeting, have a set time for each participant to read his or her essay and for the group to respond with thoughts and/or questions.
  6. Have the moderator, or different group members, email the speaker with the details of the roundtable discussion. The speaker will likely take interest in how the presentation they delivered is creating discussion following the event.


Personal Reflection

  1. Write a reflection on the topic discussed at the event. You may submit your reflection to the Office of Inclusion and Diversity for possible follow-up discussion.


Additional Resources

  1. Project Implicit
  2. NY Times “Who, Me? Biased?” Series
  3. Additional Citations:
    • Ross, H. (2015). 3 Ways to Make Less Biased Decisions. Harvard Business Review
    • Fiske (2002). Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11, 123-128
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Last Updated: February 26, 2018