Can We Talk? Teaching about Race and Diversity

Can We Talk? is  a response to the reality that  many higher education professionals find it challenging to elicit and facilitate substantive, honest dialogues about race and diversity.  Faculty, administrators and students may fear being misunderstood or judged, of offending others, or of experiencing damaging conflict.  And yet they must invite conflict if we are to gain the cognitive and affective learning outcomes that are possible in diverse institutions.

In 2010, Can We Talk? Teaching about Race and Diversity started as a collaboration between Temple University's Director of the Center for Social Justice and Multicultural Education and the Associate Provost and Director of the Teaching and Learning Center as a monthly faculty development workshop.  The workshops brought together a diverse group of faculty to explore best practices in teaching race courses and utilized dialogue as a means to assist faculty in exploring their own pedagogical obstacles to effective teaching.

Can We Talk? provided an innovative model for preparing professionals for this challenging work.  Participants experienced strategies that they could use to create environments where participants could feel enough trust, security, and motivation to engage honestly and productively about their different experiences and perspectives. These methods are relevant and useful to faculty across disciplines, but also to those who work in units as diverse as general education, human relations, community-based learning, faculty development, and institutional diversity.

The monthly workshops  assisted participants in discovering their individual obstacles to effectively teaching diverse groups. Participants  learned how to encourage students to express their emotions, feel sufficiently safe to come into non-violent conflict, share information, and engage in transformative action on problems that affect them, their peers and institutions. 

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