Difficult Topics and Unexpected Discussions in the Classroom

Below is a list of resources developed for instructors on facilitating conversations on difficult topics and managing unexpected discussions in the classroom environment.  The resources also include suggestions on actions to support Indigenous students during this socio-politically charged time.

We are grateful to all colleagues who have contributed resources to this list.

If you have a suggestion of a resource to add to this list please email nancy.turner@usask.ca.

IdleNoMore Discussion Guide on the Gerald Stanley trial - webpage

This webpage, prepared by the IdleNoMore movement which includes input from faculty members from the College of Education, Indigenous Studies and alumni, lists questions that might be used to guide a discussion on the trial process and outcome.  Also included are links to selected news articles related to the trial and associated literature that provides context and background and links to online petitions and open letters calling for an appeal of the verdict and public inquiry. The page is updated daily with new resources as they become available.

Full transcript of judge’s instructions to jury in Stanley trial - newspaper article

This National Post article includes the full transcript of the judge’s instructions to the jury in the Gerald Stanley murder trial which took Chief Justice Martel Popescul 90 minutes to read aloud to them.

The CBC also created a one-minute video of the three key questions jurors considered during their deliberation.

Ways to support Indigenous students in socio-politically charged times – online article

This article, written in the United States, focuses on the varying ways faculty and staff in universities can support Indigenous students during socio-politically charged times.  The six actions recommended are:

  1. Listen to Indigenous students and support dialogue
  2. Be informed of local issues impacting Indigenous students
  3. Acknowledge Place: College campuses are located on ancestral lands of Indigenous peoples
  4. Increase campus wide awareness: Educate the larger community on issues facing Indigenous students
  5. Be familiar with Indigenous-centered support services on your campuses
  6. Be intentional: Instill in Indigenous students that they come from a people of strength and resilience.

Each is more fully explored in the article.

Fierce conversations – book and related youtube video

This book outlines how to approach and have conversations that address disagreement or points of tension head on with the intention of building and strengthening relationships. The approach outlined in the book has been used to successfully support students in having such conversations and may also be useful for faculty and staff in doing the same.

Student's guide to engaging constructively with social justice content – online article

This article is written as advice for students and may be shared as such or used by faculty in addressing those speaking from a less informed position or drawing on only personal experience and anecdote in a discussion on social justice issues.

GMCTL Blog posts on tools and strategies for hot topics

This series of three blog posts outline approaches to setting boundaries for potentially challenging classroom conversations as well as specific strategies for constructively dealing with comments ‘in the moment’ (select the green ‘next’ button in the top right corner to advance to posts two and three)

GMCTL resources on building a positive learning environment

This webpage includes ideas and videos from award winning teachers on strategies to create inclusive classroom environments.

University of Michigan resources on discussing difficult or controversial topics

This website includes a list of resources from the University of Michigan teaching and learning centre on topics such planning for discussing controversial or difficult conversations and managing sudden eruptions of tension or conflict within the classroom.