Yale Center for Teaching and Learning

Vision 2020

Four Colorful Text Bubbles connected to form one large speaking bubble with the words "Vision 2020"

*Vision 2020 is actively responding to the COVID-19 crisis with resources and events. Please navigate below to “COVID-19 Strategies and Resources” and “Workshops and Events.”

A yearlong Poorvu Center initiative designed to promote effective teaching and learning strategies around challenging content and difficult classroom dialogues by:

Channeling national, campus, and classroom tensions into discussion across difference through venues that promote learning and deep listening;

Curating aligned resources and programs from across Yale University into a visible collection that supports effective, empathetic teaching and learning, and;

Customizing departmental support by facilitating practical workshops that address unique departmental needs.

Vision 2020 Yale Partners:

Center for Language Study

Department of Comparative Literature

Department of Psychiatry

Education Studies Program

Office for Graduate Student Development and Diversity, GSAS

School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

School of Nursing

Study Abroad

Yale Divinity School

Yale Law School

Yale University Art Gallery

FAS Dean’s Office

Yale College Dean’s Office

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Learn more below about partnering with us: request a custom program, share or adopt resources, and/or participate in a Vision 2020 program!

Vision 2020 Icon

Request a Custom Program

Poorvu Center staff design programs tailored to meet the specific needs of Yale schools, departments, units, and classes. Custom programs can include (and are not limited to) a departmental workshop, a conversation with instructors, or a visit to a faculty/staff meeting to address research and best practices. Consider sample programs to learn more.

To request a custom program, please email us.

Poorvu staff are trained in facilitating workshops on a variety of topics. As part of Vision 2020, Poorvu Center staff and partners from across campus will participate in a workshop facilitated by Libby Roderick, director of the University of Alaska’s Difficult Dialogues program, focused on further refining our skills for training others to effectively facilitate classroom conversations about controversial and sensitive topics.

Teaching Resources

Instructors, students, and teaching center staff at Yale and around the world have designed resources to support difficult dialogues and controversial content in the classroom. Check out our top ten strategies and additional resources below. If you would like to share a resource with us or request something you do not see, please email us.

COVID-19 Strategies and Resources

As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 crisis, there are a variety of practices that instructors and students can adopt and / or encourage with one another in order to maintain mental health and negotiate topics like pandemic, isolation, and death in the classroom. The following strategies may be appropriate at various points in the semester:

  • Remember student mental health and broader life situations, particularly during assessment; when responding to individual issues; and at typically stressful points in the semester
  • Assume a balanced approach to discussing pandemic (not too much, not too little)
  • Review upcoming content for potential intersections with pandemic
  • Consider flexible assignments, assessments, and modes of participation
  • Check in socially with students
  • If tensions arise, ask students to pause conversation and take some time to write privately
  • Be proactive: reach out to students exhibiting deeper emotional struggles or contact their Residential College Dean

The following resources provide strategies and approaches that can support student mental health throughout remote learning:

Coping With Coronavirus: How faculty members can support students in traumatic times (Chronicle of Higher Education)

Tips to Help College Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic (McLean Harvard Medical School Affiliate)

Maintaining Mental Health and Wellbeing When the Physical Health Risks to the Community are Real (Connecticut College)

How College Students Can Prioritize Mental Health During the COVID-19 Outbreak (The Talkspace Voice)

Taking Care of Your Mental Health in the Face of Uncertainty (Connecticut College)

Managing Inappropriate Comments Remotely (Yale University Poorvu Center)

Finally, the following strategies can easily be adapted to the online environment. For assistance, please submit a consultation request to the Poorvu Center and we’d be delighted to help.

Strategies for Difficult Dialogues at Yale

Before Class

  • Consider the diverse range of potential students a class at Yale might draw
  • Review course materials to identify areas with sensitive content and consider resources below for managing this content
  • Reflect on the valid, natural role of emotional response in the learning process
  • Consider the syllabus and what signals it conveys about dialogue and the nature of classroom relationships

During Class

  • In difficult moments, remember to pause before responding - reflect quietly, write, and listen to others
  • Work to perceive and respond to people as individuals, not only component parts of their fuller identity (like race, orientation, opinion, or experience)
  • Remember that emotional response can arise from a variety of sources including evidence and personal histories, and, that the nature of evidence/data varies across disciplines

After Class

  • Take a few minutes to reflect on a difficult moment and write down your thoughts: Is there more to learn or read? How did you act, and how might you engage differently next time?
  • Consider inviting some or all participants to discuss matters outside of class in a comfortable environment
  • Consider whether the conversation should be further addressed as a class

More Resources for Managing Difficult Dialogues

Difficult dialogues can help students practice being open to new ideas and different ways of seeing.

Difficult Conversations in the Classroom,” Dr. Suzanne Young, Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning

Teaching Controversial Topics,” Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning

“Difficult Dialogues,” Vanderbilt Center for Teaching

Navigating Difficult Moments in the Classroom,” Harvard Bok Center for Teaching and Learning

Best Practices: Teaching Sensitive Course Content,” University of Minnesota Center for Educational Innovation

Start Talking: A Handbook for Engaging Difficult Dialogues in Higher Education, ed. Kay Landis (posted on Vanderbilt Center for Teaching site)

Difficult Dialogues National Resource Center

More Resources for Inclusive Teaching Strategies

Difficult dialogues are most productive in classrooms with clear expectations and obvious dedication to empathy.

Inclusive Teaching Strategies,” Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning

Inclusive Classroom Climate,” Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning

Effective Classroom Discussions,” Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning

Inclusive Teaching Resources and Strategies,” Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching

Learning Student Names,” Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning

Establishing Classroom Ground Rules,” Washington University in St. Louis Teaching Center

Workshops and Events

We invite you to attend the programs listed below, hosted by Poorvu staff and partners (please note that some events request and / or require registration). New events are added regularly.

To Find Out More 

Past Events in this Series

Title Event Topic Time
Managing Difficult Dialogues in the Classroom Online via Zoom Friday, October 2, 2020 - 10:15am to 11:30am
Managing Difficult Dialogues in the Classroom Difficult Classroom Dialogues Wednesday, August 12, 2020 - 2:15pm to 3:30pm
Teaching Through Pandemic Help Students Focus Wednesday, April 8, 2020 - 1:00pm to 2:00pm
ATW: Difficult Conversations in the Classroom (Race, Ethnicity, and Culture) ATW: Difficult Conversations in the Classroom (Race, Ethnicity, and Culture) Wednesday, April 1, 2020 - 5:00pm to 6:30pm
ATW: Difficult Conversations in the Classroom (Gender) ATW: Difficult Conversations in the Classroom (Gender) Thursday, March 5, 2020 - 5:30pm to 7:00pm
Panel Conversation, The Legacy of Lynching: Artistic Confrontations of Racial Terror Difficult Dialogues Thursday, February 20, 2020 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm
ATW: Teaching First-Generation and Non-Traditional Students ATW: Teaching First-Generation and Non-Traditional Students Monday, February 10, 2020 - 5:00pm to 6:30pm
Addressing Trauma in the Classroom with Object Based Learning John Wilson’s Studies for a Lynching Mural Wednesday, January 29, 2020 - 2:00pm to 4:00pm