Complicating the Narrative Resources

Thanks to all who joined the workshop with the Solutions Journalism Network on engaging the Complicating the Narratives Framework for productive classroom discussions, hosted by the Center for Teaching and Learning on Wednesday, February 17th, 2021. Explore the additional resources found below to review and expand upon the workshop’s discussions, as provided by our presenter, Alane Presswood.


Effective classroom discussions enhance student engagement and deepen understanding of course content, particularly among students who prefer active learning. However, positive results are contingent on how instructors lead discussions; active facilitation, the incorporation of student experiences, thoughtful questions, a supportive classroom environment, and the affirmation of student perspectives have all been identified as components of effective discussion facilitation. With an ongoing global pandemic and numerous social, cultural, and governmental tensions occupying the news, we know students already face plentiful distractions to learning – but strong discussion facilitation is one classroom factor well within our control.

Complicating the Narratives is a framework born out of conflict mediation strategies and used by journalists to report stories about polarizing issues; a CTN approach leverages complexity as a tool for uncovering truth and reconciling inconsistencies. In the classroom, it furthers engagement and understanding via four pillars:

  1. Amplify contradictions and widen the lens of analysis
  2. Ask questions to discover people’s motivations
  3. Listen more and better
  4. Counter confirmation bias

The original essay that inspired the Complicating the Narrative Project can be found here, as published on the Solutions Journalism Network.

The slides presented on during the workshop with the Solutions Journalism Network are included below.


For direct strategies to expand discussions, explore this list of interview questions which serve the four pillars discussed in the workshop and listed above.


The full discussion guide toolkit, with in depth explanation and analysis of these methods, can be found below.


Additionally, find here two articles demonstrating the success of these methods in community settings: the first presents Daryl Davis’ use of open communication to directly address racial injustices and white supremacy; the second article is based on “Shop Talk” discussions surrounding the idea of communicating through uncomfortable situations based in prejudice and racism.


Finally, the Solutions Journalism Network does have spots still available for spring 2021 in our Journalist in the Classroom program. If you are interested in bringing in a guest speaker, contact the CTL. Typically these sessions are about an hour long; instructors will have students read a selection of the journalist’s articles before class, the journalist usually begins with a short presentation, and then it opens up to Q&A. Please find an info sheet on the process here, and a recently published blog post about the first year of the program, as well.

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