CRLT offers 9/11 discussion tips
By Kara Bomzer / University Record Intern
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks left many across the country, and
here at U-M, wondering how to deal with the aftermath. Soon after
the attacks, the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT)
responded by creating guidelines for class discussions after some
faculty members expressed confusion about how to facilitate a dialogue
about the events.
As the one-year anniversary approaches, CRLT has released revised
guidelines to aid classroom discussions. Constance Cook, director
of CRLT, says these guidelines give students a chance to voice
their sadness and fear in a safe, supportive classroom environment.
The guidelines, which are redesigned to give common sense approaches
to classroom discussions, include the following:
- Think through supportive ways to introduce and close the class
- Ask the class to establish ground rules for the discussion.
These rules might include avoiding blame and speculation, respecting
each others views, avoiding inflammatory language, sharing
personal stories and feelings, and expressing some anger and frustration.
- Be prepared for blaming. A backlash might emerge against people
who share an ethnic, cultural or religious heritage with those
accused in the terrorist attacks.
- Be careful about using or allowing someone else to use historical
events in comparison to the Sept. 11 tragedy. Students may have
relationships with past events that will make the examples offensive.
- Create a framework for the discussion. Possible discussion
topics include hopes and fears students have about the discussion,
the way they were affected personally by the events, how the events
might affect their future and what positive actions have resulted
from the tragedy.
- Allow everyone a chance to talk but dont force students
to participate. Ways to accomplish this include using a round
discussion, which gives each student a chance to talk or pass;
dividing students into discussion groups; or giving students a
chance to write down their thoughts and feelings before they speak
or if the discussion gets out of hand.
- Explore links to the content of the class. Try to balance emotional
and intellectual approaches.
- Collaborate with other instructors by exchanging ideas or strategies,
or have a debriefing after the classroom discussions.
Cook says the purpose of the guidelines is to help instructors
who choose to address the anniversary of Sept. 11 in their classes
do so with the same sensitivity as in the immediate aftermath
of the attacks. The guidelines, which also appeared in the January/February
issue of Change, can be found on the CRLT Web site at www.crlt.umich.edu/tragedydiscussion.html.
If faculty members need additional information or want to
discuss strategies or concerns they have about the anniversary
discussions, CRLT consultants can be reached by phone at (734)
764-0505, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
or in person in 3300 School of Education Building.
Counseling support is available for people having trouble
dealing with the Sept. 11 anniversary. Instructors can contact
the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program at (734) 763-9700 and
students can call Counseling and Psychological Services at (734)