Asserting political opinions in discussion

An instructor’s personal or political opinions might be less relevant when it comes to some topics, but asserting your opinions on certain controversial issues may be crucial. In this video, Christina “V” Villarreal and Tim McCarthy reflect on when and why they choose to assert certain political positions or strongly held beliefs in a discussion, particularly when “a line is crossed” or when “stakes are high.”

Instructor

Christina “V” Villarreal, Visiting Lecturer on Education

Student Group

Graduate

School

Harvard Graduate School of Education

Course

Ethnic Studies and Education

Course Details

Fall 2016, 23 students

Instructor

Timothy Patrick McCarthy, Lecturer on History and Literature

Student Group

Undergraduate/Graduate

School

Harvard College

Course

Stories of Slavery & Freedom

Course Details

Fall 2016, 16 students

  • Clarifying for yourself why you teach the way you do and what you hope to accomplish with your scholarship may help you make decisions about when to insert your own opinions in class. Consider crafting your own personal teaching philosophy to do this.
  • Once you’ve clarified your approach in your own head, be explicit with your students about how you see yourself connected to the content you teach and share your teaching philosophy with them. This will help put your comments in context.
  • Model civil behavior and maintain consistent classroom norms. Students will notice the ways you demonstrate respect even when you disagree with their comments or when a conversation gets controversial.
  • A study conducted to establish the role of instructor self-disclosure found that when instructors shared either personal or professional information, students reported that instructor self-disclosure helped instructors establish credibility. Content of instructor self-disclosure, however, had to be relevant to either students or the course content (Myers et al., 2009).  
  • Researchers reported that instructor self-disclosure can enhance student learning as it is is associated with out-of-class communication and increased student interest in the course (Cayanus & Martin, 2004)