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UCSB Reads 2021

Resources to Facilitate Talking about Difficult Topics

Discussion Questions

From publisher:

From University of Richmond


Tips for Discussions from Instructors Abigail Droge and Chris Dean

Ground the conversation in the text.

Thinking about the narrative “arc” of a discussion can be helpful -- you can start the session by discussing a specific passage and then build out to larger-scale questions about how our current social moment impacts the way we read this text, how reading this text might impact our current social moment, etc. Or you can start with students’ own experiences (which they are already experts in) and move into the text, etc, etc -- there are many different progressions that work well. Having an idea in advance of the discussion’s major “plot points” can be helpful in providing a loose framework, which can then still be flexible enough to respond to participants’ interests. 

Other ideas:

Ask everyone to come to the meeting with a passage from the text. Ask 'Why did you choose this passage?"

  • Say, “I have a passage that I want you to reflect on. “ Post in the chat, and have the participants take 3-5 minutes to reflect in writing. 
  • Ask how and why questions
  • Or, ask yes and no questions followed by a “why” question
  • Benefit of this kind of discussion is to understand perspective, so ask:
    • Why did the story end this way?
    • Why did the character make that/this decision?

The Circle Way

The Circle Way is a lightly formalized, lightly facilitated social structure that allows people to use circle process in a wide range of settings. 

COMPONENTS OF CIRCLE What transforms a meeting into a circle is the willingness of people to shift from informal socializing or opinionated discussion into a receptive attitude of thoughtful speaking and deep listening that embodies the practices and structures outlined here.