Using Intergroup Dialogue Techniques in the Classroom

An essential complement to student-focused programming, Teaching and Leading 2030 is an intense week-long Intergroup Dialogue program for faculty and staff. The program:

  • prepares faculty and staff to work more effectively across difference.
  • provides instruction on how to employ teaching techniques using dialogue and effectively facilitate meaningful discussion with students on difficult topics.

Teaching and Leading 2030 is offered to Villanova faculty and staff outside of the spring semester. Participants are selected via an application process that opens during the spring semester.



Be a part of the change! The Aequitas Task Force on Race has proposed the development of a University Race and Justice course (URJC). 2021-22 Special Faculty Associates program to support the development of College-specific content for the course supported by VITAL and ODEI begins the process. The first pilot section is running Fall 2021.



Sponsored by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) and the Center for Intergroup Dialogue (IGD) and made possible with funding from the Lorenzini Family Foundation, the Institute is designed to train faculty in antiracist principles and practices, including dialogue. Faculty members at any rank who teach 3-credit courses in any of the Colleges are eligible to apply. 2022 Institute dates: TBD. Participants receive a stipend upon completion. Twenty-four faculty members representing all six colleges completed the May 2021 Institute.



This workshop explores communicating across difference on our campus and introduces participants to dialogue.

Key Terminology: Stereotypes, Unconscious Bias, Cultural Competence, Dialogue, Listening
Duration: 6-8 two-hour sessions
Format: Small and large group discussion
Recommended Number of Participants: 15+


How to Discuss Controversial Topics in Class

Share the objectives of the discussion and how they connect with the course material.

Develop discussion guidelines with the students in class, or present your guidelines for the students to accept or modify. You can refer back to them if the conversation becomes tense. E.g. Let everyone speak, don't interrupt, listen to understand and not to criticize, ask questions for clarification, challenge ideas and not people, do not ask individuals to represent groups.

Provide useful vocabulary and information to understand the complexity of the issue, including the root causes, positions, reasons for the conflict, and implications. You can share resources to review before or during class, or draw upon students’ knowledge distinguishing personal opinions from less evaluative statements.

Create clear questions in advance to elicit conversation. Avoid double-barreled questions (two or more questions in one) and closed-ended questions that elicit yes/no answers. In addition, prepare questions to use if the class is silent or hesitant (e.g. what makes this hard to discuss?), make follow up questions to clarify students’ responses, and be ready to redirect the discussion if it goes off on a tangent.

It is hard to give everyone the chance to speak. You can use small groups to hear from students who may not participate otherwise. For example, ask students to write their answers individually, then share in pairs, and later share what their partner said with the whole class.

Keep the discussion focused and purposeful without over-controlling it. Make questions, ask students to clarify or elaborate on their ideas, paraphrase them, correct misinformation, and reference course material. If you are going to share your opinion, consider how will affect the class first: Will sharing your perspective model how to take a stance, or will it most likely shut down students that disagree with you? Will you help respond to comments that marginalize or will it devalue some students in class?

Be aware that discussing social issues can involve your identity. For instance, students may assume that you have certain expectations based on how they perceive your identity. Further, some comments might trigger reactive responses from you during the discussion and you need to be aware in advance of this possibility to remain even-tempered. If statements that trigger you or a student emerge, you must address them, even if it is at a later time. It is recommended that you name the issue and work with the students contextualizing the triggering statement. Also, keep in mind that some students might try to purposely trigger you. In this case, go back to the ground rules, unpack the heated comments, redirect the conversation, or point out the differences between baiting, debating, and discussing.

Save enough time at the end to summarize the main points of the discussion, preferably with the students’ help. In addition, ask for oral or written feedback with questions like: what are the most important points you learned today? What questions remain unanswered? What did you learn from another student?


Note: Based on the model offered by the Center for Research on Learning & Teaching of the University of Michigan.

Impact of IGR

Impact of IGR