Todd Rakoff points out that having students take a position they don’t necessarily agree with can make discussions less personal and invite broader participation. Additionally, employing small group discussions can be a powerful tool for amplifying diverse viewpoints. In this video, when Rakoff sends students on their way to talk through court cases, the room transforms into a flurry of energy and lively deliberation. Rakoff uses informal and formal role plays, questioning strategies, and an even-handed tone to solicit and affirm alternative perspectives in discussion.
Todd Rakoff, Byrne Professor of Administrative Law
Harvard Law School
Legislation & Regulation
Fall 2016, 80 students, first-year requisite
- Give careful thought to which texts you select to teach. Supplement dominant, Eurocentric perspectives by presenting alternative viewpoints.
- Use role plays so students can consider issues from alternative points of view
- Push students to both articulate and scrutinize counter-arguments
- Consider carefully the examples and language you use to explain concepts
- Administer class votes and polls throughout lessons to gain a broader understanding of what students are thinking in real-time
- Research indicates that peer dialogue enriches student understanding (Smith et. al., 2009)
- An examination of web-based discussions concludes that student contributions differ according to race and, more broadly, that integrating a range of perspectives into discussions can lead to more critical thinking (Pitt & Packard, 2012)
- Northedge argues for a pedagogical shift in which, through instruction, professors immerse students in new, unfamiliar knowledge communities to expose them to diverse perspectives (2010)