A classroom dialogue is a facilitated conversation within a CU class that provides an opportunity for participants to share their experiences and speak from their own perspectives while also challenging participants to understand why they hold a perspective. A dialogue is both an introspective and sharing process which allows differing viewpoints to be held side-by-side. The goal is for participants to gain a deeper understanding of their own and others’ perspectives on a topic or issue. A dialogue does not aim to persuade or push a certain perspective but to help participants understand varying viewpoints. The facilitator helps promote introspection and critical thinking about the perspectives participants hold.

Why Hold a Classroom Dialogue?

In a classroom dialogue a facilitator leads a dialogue on a specific topic planned in collaboration with the faculty member requesting the dialogue. Dialogues are tailored to fit specific course content and curricular goals. A classroom dialogue is yet another tool that faculty can use to support or achieve course objectives. At the same time, a dialogue provides students with a new, experiential way to understand course material. 

A facilitated classroom dialogue is an effective way to address complex and/or contentious issues within a classroom setting.

Every time I participate in a dialogue my teaching improves.  Faculty comment after a classroom dialogue. 

"I think inviting [students] to share their own stories is an opportunity they wouldn't have otherwise had. I got to know where students are coming from on a deeper level." - Faculty comment after a classroom dialogue.

A dialogue sparks engaged learning through an open exchange of perspectives that deepens students’ understanding of an issue or topic.

“[The dialogue] made me understand and connect the issues of oppression and classism…now I have a personal experience with seeing the impact of society’s standards and how that affects [real people].”– Student comment after a dialogue on the topic of classism in a President’s Leadership Class practicum

The dialogue process promotes analysis of course content and encourages reflection.

“I learned that gender issues are attached to or are [contributing] factors to many other injustices and problems our society faces…everything is related somehow.” – Student comment after a dialogue on the topic of gender and culture in a Women’s Literature course

Dialogues provide a means to encourage inclusive practices in the classroom.

"I just wrote a paper on how in America there is a shyness around race and ethnicity. [The dialogue] allowed us to overcome this shyness and find out about other cultures.” – Student comment after a dialogue on the topic of diversity at CU in a Multicultural Rhetorics course

Examples of Classroom Dialogue Topics Across a Range of Disciplines

  • Hiring and retaining critical human resources in a Business course. For this dialogue, we invited formerly incarcerated citizens to share their experiences in returning to the workforce.  

  • Designing sustainable communities in an Engineering course. In this dialogue students discussed their perspectives and experiences on inclusion as it pertains to design projects.

  • Gender and ambition in a Women's Literature course. In this dialogue we invited community participants from different age groups. This added a cross-generational perspective to a unit about how gender influences career goals and work ambition

  • Employer-Employee Relations in a Business course. For this dialogue members of CU's custodial staff participated in a conversation on how employers can foster a sense of community among employees.

  • Affirmative Action in a Sociology course. In this dialogue students and community participants from a range of racial/ethnic backgrounds exchanged experiences and perspectives related to affirmative action as a social policy.

  • Diversity and Difference in a Leadership course. For this dialogue we invited community participants from different social and cultural identities joined students for a conversation about their ideas on diversity and difference.

How to Schedule and Prepare for a Classroom Dialogue

  1. Identify a topic based on your course content and fill out a Dialogue Request Form.

  2. A Dialogues Program facilitator will contact you to arrange a brief consultation in person or by phone. The pre-dialogue consultation gives you an opportunity to discuss your learning objectives with the facilitator and identify specific questions you want the dialogue to address.

  3. Prepare your students for the dialogue. Students benefit most when a pre-dialogue reading, class discussion, or assignment connects to the topic/questions the dialogue will address. Plan to share ideas for preparing your students with the facilitator during the pre-dialogue consultation. Facilitators will use this information to help build a “road map” for your dialogue.

  4. Keep in mind that the facilitator will guide the conversation during the dialogue. In a dialogue, faculty members drop the “teacher/expert” role.  All dialogue community participants act as co-learners/teachers.