Charged Learning Spaces: Teaching After the Election

In the aftermath of the 2016 election, many classrooms have become charged and fraught spaces. Regardless of the subject matter, students carry their feelings and opinions into the room. Some may be elated and others may be shaken, grieving, and fearful; any of these feelings (and more) might affect students’ ability to learn. In some cases, particularly where the election is germane to the topic of the course, students will likely want to discuss it, and of course these discussions could become contentious and emotionally precarious for students who are personally invested.

CNDLS has heard from many faculty wondering how to handle such discussions or seeking to debrief with others in their wake. Whether or not you’ve already taken the time to acknowledge or analyze the election with your classes, we’re hoping that a few resources might be helpful as you navigate these newly-complicated learning spaces. Our Teaching Commons page on Difficult Discussions could be a good place to start, and below you’ll find a number of pages from other teaching and learning centers focused on the same issues and, in some cases, this particular post-election moment.

Looking for a few highlights? Brown University advocates addressing the situation directly: “Generally, research suggests that students find helpful instructors’ efforts to acknowledge issues of deep campus concern, whether using a small amount of class time (like a brief acknowledgement) or more extended portion of the course (like a planful discussion.)” Then, as the University of Michigan suggests, “if you do choose to engage students on this topic, it will be important to acknowledge the range of perspectives and intense emotions that are likely present in your classroom.” Meanwhile, Vanderbilt University reminds us that, “if we are to be effective in our teaching and if we are to model coping and wellness for our students, we need to practice self-care ourselves in the face of the stresses this election has placed on our role as educators.”

More resources:

University of Washington Center for Teaching and Learning
Post-Election Resources and Support (Post-Election Community Conversation Topics)

University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching
Returning to the Classroom After the Election

Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching
Teaching in Response to the Election

The Ohio State University Center for the Advancement of Teaching
Resources for Teaching the Presidential Election and Other Controversial Topics

The Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning at Brown University
Teaching After the U.S. Election

Michigan State University Academic Advancement Network
Resources for Difficult Dialogues in the Classroom

We hope you’ll find these resources useful. As always, let us know how else we can help.