Our approach to using an Exploratory Discussion process in educational settings adds one key and unique element: the discussions are student-facilitated. They are intended not only to help teach course content but also critical, twenty-first century communication skills–both as participants and facilitators. We believe that these discursive communication and interpersonal skills are not only vital to students’ educational and career success but also to the health of our democracy. If you are considering adding a student-facilitated exploratory discussion component to your course(s)–whether for an in-person or online course–we encourage you to review our education resources. In addition, our student-facilitated Exploratory Discussions have expanded to forums outside the classroom to address broader campus concerns around equity and inclusion. Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to collaborate on using Exploratory Discussions in educational contexts.
Comments from our Collaborators
The work I now do with farmers in the remote mountain regions of Haiti crystallized from IF’s citizen-based discussion methods, as did the photography-based literacy tools now being implemented in resiliency programs with at-risk elementary school children in stressed Appalachian communities. Other iterations of these approaches are now at the core of my college-level pedagogy. IF helped me build bridges between my creative life and the social imperative of being a photographer and teacher.
Professor of Art, Sewanee, the University of the South
In introductory courses, the IF process encourages students to take ownership of material and empowers them to explore diverse viewpoints while explicitly recognizing the contributions of each member to the collaborative discussion. This builds confidence and collaborative skills, especially in first year students who might be hesitant to take the lead in a classroom discussion. In upper level courses, the "Yes And..." mindset allows students to deeply explore material and to find their own solutions to complex problems.
Professor of Biology, Wesleyan College
Students have provided very positive feedback about the IF guided, interactive courses I have taught. Many realized that the courses broadened their views on many issues, that they could learn from their peers who have very thoughtful and diverse perspectives, that they have created intimacy and bonding with their classmates, and that they feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions, while still managing to digest the content of the courses.
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Christopher Newport University
Early in my teaching career, I learned about the Interactivity Foundation’s efforts to develop the facilitation skills of faculty. From IF’s in-depth training, peer network, and educational materials, I was able to create a new undergraduate course, Communication and Democracy, while also engaging community members in a year-long conversation on the policy possibilities for higher education. IF played an integral role in fostering my identity as a classroom teacher and enlarged my perspective on where/how citizens can be involved in the policy making process.
Associate Professor and director of the Leadership Communication doctoral program at the Staley School of Leadership Studies at Kansas State University
The Interactivity Foundation offers me excellent hands-on resources to help get students thinking more deeply about challenging issues. Their approach and the tools and practices they continually hone help students go beyond just repeating the headlines of the day and really dive into issues in a way that is holistic and rich. As a pedagogical partner, IF helps me give my students experiences of exploration and sustained thinking.
Associate Professor, Communication Studies and Director, Institute for Constructive Advocacy and Dialogue, James Madison University