CandleWith recent public safety threats to our campus, and the tragic events that occurred at the Boston Marathon, we were reminded of the particular teaching challenges can arise in the wake of such shared trauma, and we would like to make available some resources to support instructors facing such challenges.

You can click here to find a range of guidelines developed by our colleagues at the University of Michigan for discussing difficult topics with students. Especially relevant items include the guidelines for teaching in the aftermath of the September 11th tragedies. Key suggestions for productively discussing such events include:

  • Consider supportive ways to open and close such a discussion
  • Create a framework for the discussion, using specific questions to guide student contributions
  • Allow everyone a chance to talk, but don’t force students to participate
  • Where possible, explore links to the content of your course or discipline

Other helpful resources in the wake of the Boston events include this article on student perceptions of more and less helpful faculty responses to public violence and tragedy. The authors, Therese A. Huston and Michele DiPietro, discuss their findings that even a simple, brief recognition of the occurrence–and an acknowledgment that students may be experiencing distress–can make a big difference. Students appreciate their teachers’ acknowledging public tragedies, even in courses where the material does not seem relevant to the events.

In his message to the campus community on Tuesday, April 16, 2013, Senior Vice President for Administration and Planning, Jay Kasey shared emergency planning resources including a Guide to Assist Disruptive or Distressed Individuals, which provides “Dos” and “Don’ts” for both situations.

As always, UCAT consultants are also available discuss this or any other teaching issue; to schedule a consultation, call or email us.

adapted from resources posted by the
Center for Research on Teaching and Learning
University of Michigan