September 14, 2018

Guide for fostering civil discourse in the classroom

Download this guide on fostering civil discourse in the classroom.

How can you create a safe and reflective classroom where students learn to exchange ideas and listen respectfully to each other? What strategies are most effective in helping students practice constructive civil discourse?

In the aftermath of a divisive United States presidential election and ongoing issues related to race, justice, and policing, educators are rightly concerned about the lessons that today’s middle and high school students might be absorbing. Educators have an essential role to play in creating classrooms where students learn to listen respectfully to different opinions and experiences, try out ideas and positions, and give—and get—constructive feedback without fear or intimidation.

This guide from Facing History and Ourselves provides strategies designed to help educators navigate these challenging times and support students to develop effective skills for civic participation.

The ideas and tools are designed to help young people practice civil discourse, an essential skill for effective civic participation. Facing History believes that a reflective, supportive classroom community is fostered by:

  • Creating a sense of trust and openness
  • Encouraging participants to speak and listen to each other
  • Making space and time for silent reflection
  • Offering multiple avenues for participation and learning
  • Helping students appreciate the points of view, talents
    and contributions of less vocal members

The classroom should be a place where students learn to exchange ideas, listen respectfully, try out ideas and positions, and give—and get—constructive feedback without fear or intimidation. Through engaging in difficult conversations, students gain critical thinking skills, empathy and tolerance, and a sense of civic responsibility.

Facing History and Ourselves

Facing History and Ourselves is a nonprofit international educational and professional development organization whose mission is to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry.