1. Add language to your syllabi that makes clear open inquiry and constructive disagreement are expected.  Help set the tone in your class by using the syllabus to communicate the value you place on open inquiry and constructive disagreement.  A post on our blog from last January offers some suggestions; the comments on that post provide even more great ideas.

  2. Assign OpenMind as a homework assignment during the first few weeks of the term. OpenMind is a free, interactive educational platform designed to depolarize classrooms and foster mutual understanding across differences. Learn more at openmindplatform.org.

  3. Say these two sentences at least once every day in class:  “I don’t know” and “How do you see it?” Intellectual humility and intellectual curiosity are productive starting points for constructive engagement across lines of difference. By admitting to ourselves and others that we don’t have all the answers, we open the door to being genuinely interested in others’ perspectives and the path they took to seeing the world as they do. Let’s model these dispositions for our students.

  4. Assign All Minus One, an illustrated edition of Chapter 2 of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty.  This 7,000 word essay makes a compelling case for how our own thinking benefits when we engage with others who see the world differently. A free downloadable pdf is available here, as are links to the Kindle and print versions.

  5. Lie to your students. To encourage your students to question claims and engage evidence, Jim Lemoine encourages us to lie to our students.  As he writes here, “I’ve found that one of the best ways to get your students to freely tell the truth as they see it, is to warn them that you will be untruthful.”

  6. Show this 3 minute video before your first in-class discussion.  Want to quickly make the case that our own thinking benefits from engaging with others who hold different perspectives?  This short video can help:

     

  7. Provide opportunities for the students to connect with each other.  Learning about others as individuals undermines the tendency to see them merely as representatives of groups or categories.  Human connection undermines “us versus them” thinking and behaviors.  Consider running either a Free Intelligent Conversation event in your classroom (details here), or randomly assign students to complete a task used by relationships researchers to create interpersonal closeness (the handout I use with my students is available here).

  8. Integrate assignments that require perspective taking and evidence-based argumentation. The following organizations and websites provide resource materials and tools to promote nuanced understanding of complex issues.  Consider writing assignments that either ask students to make use of these tools in their work or to model their analytical approach on the strategies they find here.  Check out:  Intelligence Squaredprocon.orgThe Flip Side, and Kialo.

  9. Administer the Campus Expression Survey to figure out who is afraid to speak out about what issues and why.  Download the survey guide here.

  10. Join Heterodox Academy (and encourage your colleagues to do the same). Heterodox Academy is a non-partisan, non-profit, 501c3 organization that partners with professors, administrators, and others to create an academy eager to welcome people who approach problems and questions from different points of view. We explicitly value the role such diversity plays in advancing the pursuit of knowledge, discovery, and innovation.  We engage in social discourse to elevate the importance of these issues on campus, create tools that professors and administrators can adopt to advance change on their campuses, and cultivate community so that the most powerful solutions can have the reach they deserve.  Apply for membership here.