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Preparing for Difficult Classroom Conversations: Strategies for Expert and Novice Facilitators

This workshop is offered via Zoom at 10:00 am-2:30 pm Central Time (CT) on September 30, 2022. Participants earn a digital badge and certificate upon completing the workshop and a post-workshop evaluation.

Workshop Description

Difficult classroom conversations can arise in any discipline. Contentious current events, challenging course content, and events on campus and in students' lives can all be the impetus for unexpected comments, a challenging turn in dialogue, or a need to proactively acknowledge an issue. How can you lead conversations that create a more supportive, respectful course climate? How can you tie these discussions to your course content? How do you navigate such circumstances without derailing your lesson plan? During this workshop, you’ll discuss how the structure of classroom discussion, classroom ground rules, and your facilitation skills all work together to help you navigate difficult conversations while creating a positive course climate and enhancing student learning. These strategies are designed for faculty in any discipline with any level of experience, from skilled facilitators who regularly teach topics involving difficult conversations to those who have little disciplinary training or experience in navigating tough topics.

By the end of this workshop, participants know or are able to:

  • Reflect on experiences and challenges with difficult dialogues.
  • Learn strategies for creating a positive course climate.
  • Brainstorm how to create and use course ground rules.
  • Create discussion structures that lead to deeper listening, respect, and equitable participation.
  • Apply insights into how course climate, ground rules, and structured conversations can work together to help you navigate unexpected difficult conversations.

This workshop is almost entirely hands-on. You’ll experience many of the strategies you can immediately put into practice in your courses.

  • Structured small and large group discussions about past experiences with difficult conversations.
  • Hands-on activities for creating a positive course climate and ground rules.
  • Jigsaw discussion on four discussion strategies for difficult conversations.
  • Applying strategies to case studies.


Registrants will be provided with the login credentials via email prior to the start of the event.


Registration Type
Early Registration Fee
on or before
September 9, 2022
Registration Fee
September 9, 2022

Cancellation and Refund Policy

Cancellation and refund requests must be received in writing prior to September 16, 2022. A refund of the workshop fee, minus a $25 administrative fee, will be given for cancellations received by September 16, 2022. Refunds will not be given after September 16, 2022 or for no-shows. Registrants who have an outstanding balance and do not attend the workshop are responsible for the $25 administrative fee. Substitutions are accepted at any time prior to the workshop by submitting a written request to Kelley Berley. The individual requesting the transfer is responsible for all financial obligations (any balance due) associated with the transfer.

Consent to Use of Photographic Images

By registering for one or more of these modules, you consent to being recorded for any purpose whatsoever, and you release NISOD and The University of Texas at Austin and their officers and representatives from any liability for infringement of any rights, and you expressively authorize and permit the use of your name, voice, and likeness and all reproductions thereof, for any purpose whatsoever, in perpetuity in any media now known or hereafter devised, without limitation and without compensation.

About the Facilitator

Dr. Jennifer H. Herman has developed, facilitated, or overseen hundreds of research-based faculty development programs around teaching and scholarship. Jennifer’s presentations, workshops, and research focus on faculty development programs and Center development, course design, teaching strategies, learning theory, teaching for inclusive excellence, student learning outcomes assessment, and online education. Her publications include Creating Engaging Discussions: Strategies for “Avoiding Crickets” in Any Size Class and Online (Stylus, 2018; with L. Nilson). Jennifer teaches courses on teaching, assessment, learning theory, and curriculum development for the Health Professions Education CAGS and doctoral program. Jennifer holds a Ph.D. in Higher Education from the University at Buffalo and a M.A. in International Training and Education from American University and is the Executive Director, Center for Faculty Excellence at Simmons Univeristy.

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