Guide for 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.
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.