CET Video Modules on “Challenging Discussions in the Classroom”

To: USC Faculty

From: Ginger Clark, Assistant Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs; Director, Center for Excellence in Teaching

February 7, 2018

The Center for Excellence in Teaching (CET) is excited to announce new brief modules on “Challenging Discussions in the Classroom.” As faculty, we all recognize the importance of guiding students through challenging discussions that are crucial to their development as informed citizens and critical thinkers. But, the risk of conversations getting heated or veering off track sometimes prevents us from initiating them, resulting in lost opportunities to help students develop important communication, influencing, and analytical skills. This risk seems especially high given our polarized political environment, where conversations about current events or issues surrounding race, gender, sexuality and other aspects central to the human experience seem so emotionally laden. These topics address the essence of who we are and how we experience the world. They influence our perspective about how the world must change. It is no wonder we are emotionally invested in them. That does not mean we cannot have productive conversations about these issues, nor does it mean we cannot teach our students how to constructively engage in them. With some guidance, we can all develop strategies for how to successfully facilitate these powerful and necessary conversations with our students to advance their learning. CET has developed modules to help faculty begin to build these strategies.

The modules can be found at: http://cet.usc.edu/challenging-discussions/. As always your feedback is welcome.

Module Topics:

  • Module 1: Introduction, Setting the Stage
  • Module 2: Inclusive Course Design
  • Module 3: Speaking about Race & Gender
  • Module 4: Plan a Challenging Discussion
  • Module 5: Lead a Challenging Discussion
  • Module 6: Managing Upset
  • Module 7: Evaluation of Efforts
  • Module 8: Speech that Violates USC Policy


  • Michael Quick, Provost
  • Varun Soni, Vice Provost and Dean of Religious Life
  • Shaun Harper, Executive Director of the USC Center for Race and Equity
  • Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, Chair of Gender Studies
  • Anita Dashiell-Sparks, Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, and her acting students
  • Jason Sackett, Senior Employee Assistance Professional, Center for Work and Family Life
  • Gretchen Dahlinger Means, Executive Director of Equity and Diversity and Title IX Offices

CET is deeply grateful to the contributors for their time and expertise. A special thanks to CET instructional designers Katie Guevara and Bob Sweeney for their extraordinary work on this project, and to Nathan Hauenstein for his editing help.