Methods to Get Conversations Started

Methods to Get Conversations Started 

(from Intergroup Dialogue in Higher Education (2007)

These strategies needed especially when the topic is perceived as controversial or a polarized atmosphere was created during the previous session.

  1. Sentence completionParticipants finish an incomplete sentence provided by the facilitators, (E.g., my gut reaction to this topic is…) Facilitators encourage participants to ask each other follow-up questions about their responses


  1. Shocking statementFacilitators read a strong, shocking statement or quote from a famous person that may challenge many participants’ experiences or beliefs. Facilitators start the dialogue by asking participants to talk about how they interpret the statement and what they think/feel about it.


  1. Recall a critical incident or experience. Often participants feel detached from discussions because they do not think the discussion relates to them. Facilitators start the discussion with participants’ recalling and then presenting a memory or experience related to or with the topic.


  1. Circle of voicesFour or five participants form a circle are given 3 minutes of silence to think about what they want to say about the issue of the day or posed question. Once the circle of voices begins, each participant has 3 minutes of uninterrupted time to speak.  Everyone else actively listens.  After the circle of voices is complete, the discussion is open to everyone.


  1. Hatful of quotesBefore the session facilitators make multiple copies of 4 or 5 passages or quotes from the assigned readings on separate sheets. At the beginning of the session sheets are placed in a  container and participants choose a sheet, think about the quote, read it aloud and then comment on it.


  1. Email questionsAfter participants complete assigned readings and before the next session, they generate questions about the hot topic and email them to facilitators, who use the questions to help structure the session. Once the conversations get going, facilitators can use questions to probe and further deepen the conversation.

Source: Xuniga, X., Nagda, B.A., Chesler, M., Cytron-Walker, A (2007).Intergroup Dialogue in Higher Education: Meaningful Learning about Social Justice. ASHE Higher Education Report, Volume 32, Number 4