IF Publications

January 31, 2024

Over the years, IF Fellows and team members have published books and articles on a wide range of topics related to collaborative discussion and exploratory conversations for students, citizens, and others. 

“What IF:  The Interactivity Foundation and Student-Facilitated Discussion Teams” (2019)

This book chapter by Shannon Wheatley Hartman and Jeff Prudhomme in Creating Space for Democracy: a Primer on Dialogue & Deliberation in Higher Education, explores how higher education can help students learn to listen, think, and act with others to solve public problems, to help our democracy to thrive at a time when we face wicked problems that involve tough trade-offs. It is vital that all citizens participate fully in the process, and this collaborative task begins with creating space for democracy.  This book provides a guide for doing so on campus through deliberation and dialogue. At the most basic level, this book describes collaborative and relational work to engage with others and co-create meaning. Read more >>

Let’s Talk Politics: Restoring Civility Through Exploratory Discussion

(Gundersen and Goodney Lea, 2013)

It has become fashionable these days to decry the decline of public discourse and civility. Let’s Talk Politics explores why there is so much incivility plaguing our social discourse– from the town hall meeting to the extended family’s holiday gathering– and why this should matter to all of us. Rather than just describing the problem, this book outlines how any and all of us can be a part of the solution by creating more productive dialogues, one conversation at a time. If you want to help create a better world, buy this book and start talking. Buy the book>>

Neither Star Nor Gypsy: How I Found Happiness Outside Academia 

(Gundersen, 2016, Political Science & Politics, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 513-515, July 2016)

This essay, presented in a profession symposium: Beyond the Ivory Tower: Political Science Careers Outside Academia, explores the author’s career outside academia and suggests some of the key career questions that political scientists and those responsible for their training should ask—and answer—as they prepare their students for life after graduation. Read more >>

Semester-Long Student Discussion Groups: Maximizing the Public & Private Benefits of Higher Education

(Fitzgerald, 2015) 

Recent scholarship has brought renewed attention to the ongoing debate regarding the public and private benefits of higher education. In this article, the author posits that both are legitimate aims of liberal arts education and that the classroom can serve an important role in pursuing these aims. To this end, the author introduces and evaluate a student-centered discussion process aimed at cultivating both private and public returns to higher education. Read more >>

Ten Governance Concerns About the Nature and Use of Data

(M. Notturno, 2014)

The emergence of big data and the data revolution raises a number of governance concerns about the nature and use of data. This chapter describes nine such concerns that an international group of data experts articulated and explored during a series of online discussions devoted to that issue. I then conclude the chapter by arguing against a common interpretation of evidence-based policy decisions – namely, the use of data to try to justify or promote public policy proposals – and in favor of a more critical, and self-critical, approach to evidence-based public policy decisions that uses data to criticize policy proposals instead of trying to justify them. I also argue that we should pay greater attention to the underlying philosophical beliefs, concerns, goals, values, interests, and priorities that motivate them. Read more >>

The Complementary Roles of Lay Citizens and Experts in Democratic Discussion

(Gundersen, 2013)

This essay,  published in the International Journal of Business and Social Science (Volume 4, No. 10, Special Issues – August 2013, pp 222-230), derives lessons from a cross section of four of IF’s early deliberative projects. Two brief preliminary sections provide the necessary theoretical and operational context. IF identifies “intelligence” with a number of constituent elements, including: public-spiritedness; a full exploration of purposes, values, principles, and emotive orientations; foresight; a willingness to explore unchartered territory or examine old issues in new ways; an inclination to consider the wider consequences of policy; and the use of expert knowledge in a way that recognizes both its importance and its biases and limitations. Read more >>

Communication Processes & Outcomes of IF Public Discussions (Black & Wiederhold, 2012)

This report is the product of a year-long study consisting of over 25 hours of field observations in six different locations on five different topics. These observational data were supplemented with follow-up interviews with 16 participants and four facilitators, as well as pre-discussion/post-discussion surveys. The first section of this report provides a detailed description of our methods of data collection and analysis. The project investigated why people decided to participate in IF discussions, analyzed how different perspectives are expressed and responded to in IF discussions, and explored what participants found meaningful or memorable after the discussion. Read more >>

Just-In-Time Exploratory Public Discussion (Gundersen & Boyer, 2012)

This essay, published by the Journal of Public Deliberation, describes a case study that successfully dealt two of the biggest challenges facing exploratory public discussion. By design, this category of discussion is typically separated from actual decisions and collaborative action and therefore lacks an element of urgency. The exploratory public discussions that prompted this report, which coincided with climate change conferences held in Cancún, Mexico, and Durban, South Africa, in 2010-2011, largely overcame this problem by preserving the exploratory nature of public discussion while trading on citizens’ interest in unfolding real-world events. Read more >>

Using the IF Discussion Process in a Service-Learning Enhanced Course: a study of student learning outcomes (Swoboda, 2012)

This paper describes the Interactivity Foundation (IF) student-centered discussion process – a ‘learning through discussion approach’ − as a useful pedagogy for enhancing students’ critical reflection on issues raised by community service. It outlines the research questions framing the assessment of student learning that took place, and provides an overview of the service learning-enhanced Community Psychology course in which the investigation of student learning was conducted, and presents findings that show the ways in which IF discussion process enhanced student learning. Read more >>

Why Political Science Should Teach Democratic Facilitation—and How (Gundersen, Byrd, Prudhomme, 2006)

Democratic discussion is a pervasive and useful aspect of social life: in the economy, in social groups, in civic associations, and, increasingly in education itself. Yet discussion facilitation—nearly always a prerequisite of useful discussion, is only rarely taught. This paper explains why teaching discussion facilitation might be worth doing— and how.  Read more >>