Considering other perspectives through role plays

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.

Instructor

Todd Rakoff, Byrne Professor of Administrative Law

Student Group

Graduate

School

Harvard Law School

Course

Legislation & Regulation

Course Details

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)