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Episode 43: Teaching Difficult Topics: How to Create a Safe, Supportive, and Engaging Learning Environment with Dr. Melissa Wehler

lecture breakers teaching and learning podcast




In episode 43 of the Lecture Breakers podcast, Dr. Melissa Wehler joins us to talk about teaching difficult topics and how to build trust with our students. 

Do you remember taking a course in college that was difficult to the point of causing you to feel anxious or overwhelmed? For me, one of those courses was statistics.

I would try the course, drop it, try again, drop it again. It took me 3 times to pass this one statistics course because I just couldn’t find it within myself to overcome my anxiety or fear, and I didn’t have a professor who could meet me where I was or make an effort to help me work through all of this.

Finally, I found a professor in grad school and I passed with my B- and never looked back.

Our students come to us with these same emotions and prior experiences. Sometimes it’s related to the topic of the course, but sometimes it’s a difficult, complex, or challenging topic within your course. That’s the focus of our conversation today.

Dr. Melissa Wehler is here to share ways you can encourage engagement and participation while also honoring students’ needs, emotions, and privacy when preparing to work with difficult content in your course.

She shares ideas and strategies she uses including how to encourage students to “opt in” at their comfort level, how to build trust, and how to create different pathways to master the learning outcomes.

What you'll learn:

  • The importance of the "why behind the try" when it comes to taking risks, trying something new, and aligning activities with purpose.

  • Creating a communication plan that includes communication strategies throughout a semester.

  • Strategies to help reduce students' fear and anxiety.

  • How to use "engage, explain, engage" as a way to address difficult or challenging topics with students.

  • Different ways to encourage engagement and participation while also honoring students' needs and privacy when difficult content is coming up.




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