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Promoting a Positive Atmosphere of Discussion

Everyone in the room shares responsibility for a course’s success. However, as the lecturer, it is your job to create the best possible conditions for a constructive learning atmosphere. Particularly when issues of gender and diversity are raised, there can be very lively discussions, wide-ranging levels of sensitivity, and unfortunately, people can also be hurt.
To promote a positive atmosphere of discussion, it is worthwhile establishing rules for a respectful interaction and exchange from the outset as a seminar agreement. This promotes transparency and creates a sense of security because, if necessary, you can refer back to these agreements over the course of the semester. In the agreement, you can lay out specific basic principles about your hopes or what kinds of behavior you will not tolerate. Such agreements are accepted more strongly if you compose them together with your students democratically or at least decide on them jointly, which is more feasible with a smaller class size. It is also highly advisable to introduce the concept of error-friendliness, which consciously acknowledges that university teaching settings are not immune to power relations.

Version April 2017. Unless otherwise stated, this content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licence.