Switching Gears

45 minutes
Switching Gears
Learning Outcomes

Students will discuss controversial topics with fellow students and empathise with students who hold a different opinion.

Description

The trainer shows an introduction statement on the screen and asks the students whether they agree or disagree. 

Ask them to take sides, agree on the left side of the classroom, disagree on the right side of the classroom. They have to choose a side! 

Make sure that you have around 8 chairs in the middle of the classroom in a circle. 

“Feed” the students to engage in a dialogue: what were they thinking when they heard the statement? Why did they choose to sit on that side of the classroom? Make sure that the students apply the statements to their own lives and to the topics that are being discussed.

When the main points have been identified, the students can go back to their side of the classroom. 

Tips:

  • Give the students several guidelines in advance. Dialogue means that they don’t have to convince each other, they just speak for themselves, it’s alright to have different opinions and above all they should ask a lot of questions to people who think differently. 
  • Make sure that different students take place in the chairs in the middle. Encourage also students who are quieter or more introverted to share their ideas. 
  • Afterwards, look back on the conversations by focusing on the common denominators. With whom did the students agree and were they surprised by that? 
  • Ask students what other topics they would like to discuss and think about statements for this. Good guidelines for this: formulate a personal statement (e.g. I have felt left out), a social statement (we need to listen more to the opinions of minorities) and/or a more general statement that can be applied to many (change is always good). 

You can show videos/share news articles about the statement to make it more relevant. For example, in the first example a video of a gay couple sharing the story about their adoption journey, or for the second a recent example where police officers or other public bodies have profiled ethnically. 

Another option could be to change perspective at the middle of the debate. Thereby, students need to be able to see the statement from both perspectives. 

Examples of statements:

  • Introductory statement sexual diversity: 
  • It should be as easy for gay people as it is for straight people to adopt children. 
  • Personal: It is nice if you can be yourself
  • Personal: I would have a hard time if my child were gay
  • Social: If someone is bothered by you, it doesn’t hurt to be critical of yourself. 
  • General: Any love is better than hate. 

Introductory statement discrimination:

  • Police officers should be allowed to profile ethnically 
  • Personal: People sometimes have prejudices about me
  • Person: Sometimes I have prejudices that were not right
  • Social: Safety is the most important thing
  • General: You should always assume that people have good intentions 
Ideas For Reflection

Afterwards, look back on the conversations by focussing on the common denominators. 

  • With whom did the students agree and were they surprised by that? 
  • Were the students able to find common ground? 
  • Were they able to respect each other’s opinions? 
  • Were they able to ask questions?
  • Were they able to understand where the others came from?
Extra Material

https://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2018/10/31/to-encourage-empathy-and-problem-solving-teach.html

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18211887/