The approach recommended is:
- Consideration of the spiritual, emotional and physical wellbeing of individuals involved; i.e., how do they feel about discussing such topics? Could any of the topics put them at risk? Are there any they believe ought to be addressed which the teacher had not planned on?
- Clear, two-way communication between facilitator and participant regarding intentions and expectations
- Letting activities be participant driven - Are participants asking for something else? What matters most to them?
This approach is challenging, and we recommend an ongoing reflective process regarding the above elements. For example, item 3 can be difficult if the audience asks you about an item in the news you aren't familiar with. That and other scenarios, what to say and how to respond, will be covered in the orientation training and critical pedagogy training. After each presentation, we will send you a concise survey to help you reflect and to give us a sense of where the audience was at before and after your talk.
Expect multiple, and unexpected perspectives coming from students and other audience members. When opportunities to learn arise, let students engage with each other. Often conversations, even difficult ones, are where participants learn the most. However, you may need to intervene if conversations get too emotional. Emphasize the importance of understanding, and the necessity of disagreeing at times. It is a good idea to start any class out with an agreement that the purpose will be understanding the region better, rather than debating the issues or figuring out which side is right. Refer back to that promise when students begin attempts to convince each other about what is right or wrong, or become upset regarding contentious issues.
One of the challenges of teaching about the Middle East is being inclusive of the immense diversity of the Middle East. This is why diversity itself is an excellent starting point when you present. A brief overview of the geography of the region, how it came to be called "The Middle East" and how the current boundaries came to be helps encapsulate years of history and give an idea of the identities there. However, it is important to emphasize the nation-states are not the end of the story when it comes to a region of identities which are not contained by state boundaries.
There are advantages and disadvantages to 'speaking' online. The social environment is changed by the fact no one can see each other, the roles of teacher and student are not as differentiated. OSU Professor Merry Merryfield, whose field is global education, has done a lot of research and teaching online, and that is one of the insights she has noted as a benefit for inter-cultural work. A major disadvantage, however, is that participants can take offense to what someone is saying, or be offensive to someone, with out getting any of the normal visual cues. For this reason Dr. Merryfield has developed some guidelines for online communication (see file below). These are very important to follow, and they have a great benefit because they foster a sense of community.