published on May 3, 2022
Robert Weston Siscoe
, Zachary Odermatt
Seeking to Understand
Small Group Dialogues about Race and Gender
It is no secret that we, as a society, struggle to have productive conversations about race and gender. Discussions about these issues are beset with obstacles, from the inherent power dynamics between conversation partners to the fear that participants feel about saying something harmful. One practice that can help address these difficulties is intergroup dialogue—sustained, small group discussions with participants from a variety of social identities. In this paper, we detail how we incorporated intergroup dialogue into a 120-student “Philosophy of Race, Class, and Gender” course, providing a blueprint for anyone who wants to help their students develop the ability to take part in fruitful conversations surrounding these challenging topics. We provide strategies for how to design intergroup dialogues to avoid many of the common pitfalls of such conversations, strategies that ultimately helped our students become more likely to initiate and participate in worthwhile discussions on race and gender. We expect our experiences to be especially helpful for instructors of large courses, where making time for small group dialogue is quite challenging, but many of the practices we used can also be adapted for smaller scale courses as well.