Faculty Development

Navigating Courageous Conversations

**This page is from an old version of CSUN's Teaching Toolkit. Find an updated version on the current Teaching Toolkit on Canvas.**

Now, more than ever, we must gain the tools to navigate courageous conversations, which we acknowledge can be difficult. However, it is our collective responsibility to gain the tools necessary to initiate and respond to systemic racism, and systems of oppression that deeply effects the lives of our students and our peers, as well as our campus community.

One of the first and most powerful moves you can make is to be introspective and examine the way these systems of oppression may present themselves in your classrooms, your interactions with staff and other faculty members. Acknowledging and then addressing oppression takes courage.  We can view these opportunities for conversation as innate learning and deeper connection as essential to our own professional development and personal growth.

Below is a list of resources as a starting point. There are ample resources available for self-education and items for you and to share with your colleagues.

Election 2020

We are in the midst of one of the most difficult periods in recent history. We are struggling to stay safe from a global pandemic, COVID-19, contending with historic racial strife and discourse that led to national, sustained grassroots protests. At the same time we are witnessing a highly contentious presidential election season with intense partisan divisions and a focus on the Fault Lines -  those characteristics that divide us as a nation: race, gender, class and sexual orientation.

More than ever, we must gain the tools to create opportunities to foster a particular kind of discourse in our classrooms that encourages students to talk about things that matter to them. How do we encourage our students to share views that are different from our own and may be different from other students?

Facing History and Ourselves, a non-profit organization that supports educators in challenging bigotry and hate, creates resources for educators to have these challenging but necessary conversations. Below is a list of resources as a starting point for initiating courageous conversations. 

More than ever, educators need to be equipped to have courageous conversations around the issues that students may be struggling with in the face of a global pandemic, an intense contentious election season and the fight for racial justice. 
Teaching resources for election 2020 - Helping students think critically about civic participation.
As with any election there will be some disappointments with the results of hard fought races. Here find resources designed to help students think critically about elections and civic participation. 

Anti-racist Resources, Books & Organizations to Follow on Social Media

Most of the links & documents below have been compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker, Alyssa Klein (May 2020).

Books to read:

Organizations to follow on social media:

More anti-racism resources:


Classroom Ideas on How to Navigate Difficult Dialogues

Specific Steps When Navigating Difficult Moments

When someone says something upsetting, what are your options for responding? Do you freeze, flee, or even fight back? What if there was another option that could result with deeper learning and understanding? What exact words can be said in that exact moment? Open The Front Door (based on the work called Non-Violent Communication) is a 4-step process to navigate micro-aggressions or any other conflicting moments using observations, thinking statements, acknowledging feelings and stating desires. San Diego State University's Diversity & Innovation Office provides a specific example of how to apply these 4 steps along with Souza's (2020) definitions:

  • Observe: "State in clear, unambiguous language what occurred. Seek common ground here by stating an observation without judgment so that all involved could agree on the speech act, behavior, or incident." For example, "I noticed that you asked Jennifer where she is from originally after she said she is from the Bay Area”;
  • Think: "Express what you think and/or what you imagine others might be thinking based on the observation. This is your interpretation step based on the evidence you have. It’s important here to be generous with your assumptions as to not put the student on the defense." For example, I think you might be assuming that because she looks Asian, she must not be an American citizen”;
  • Feel: "Express your feelings about the situation. It’s important to take responsibility for one’s own feelings using “I” statements (“I feel upset when…) instead of placing blame (“You made me feel upset when…”). It is also important to actually name an emotion so if the words “I feel” are followed with “like,” this is unlikely to happen. For example, “I feel like you are being insensitive” is NOT naming an emotion and can elicit defensiveness." For example, “I feel uncomfortable with that assumption”; and
  • Desire: "State the concrete action you would like to have happen. For example, this request could be for the behavior to change or for more conversation about the microaggression." For example, “I’d like us to recognize that such assumptions can make people feel like they do not belong and that is inconsistent with the community we are trying to build here. I’d also like us to re-focus our attention on the matter at hand.

To learn about these steps, check out this handout PDF icon by Drs Cynthia Ganote, Floyd Cheung, & Tasha Souza and access the articles below.