Center for Educational Innovation

Academic Affairs and Provost

Best Practices: Teaching Sensitive Course Content

Introduction to Sensitive Content

Students in higher education routinely explore knowledge in depth and from many perspectives, building their foundation of lifelong learning and understanding to prepare for future challenges in a continually changing multiracial and multicultural world. Like many colleges and universities, the University of Minnesota’s guiding principles emphasize striving to maintain a high-quality learning environment based on mutual respect and open exchange of ideas, viewpoints, and contexts, free from racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and intolerance.

Teaching and learning in colleges and universities are not for the faint-hearted. Addressing sensitive content is integral to higher education. Sensitive content includes trauma, violence, racism, sexism, classism, rape/sexual assaults, and any other topic that a student might find upsetting, unpleasant or disturbing. Given the wide diversity of student experience, faculty and instructors may not always anticipate what students will interpret as sensitive content. Both planned and entirely unexpected sensitive discussions may arise in educational settings at any time, which emphasize the need to PDF iconeffectively facilitate and manage sensitive course discussions.

Applying best practices in teaching and learning, especially when dealing with sensitive course content, can not only help elevate both planned and unexpected class discussions, but also minimize conflict, and create inclusive and enriching learning environments. Faculty and instructional staff who purposefully teach sensitive content and plan for the unexpected can create truly transformational experiences for students.

This site, divided into the following two sections, contains comprehensive information of best practices and concrete strategies to help faculty and instructional staff effectively plan and deliver sensitive course content.

Planning Sensitive Course Content

Teaching Sensitive Course Content

Below are a few additional resources, including free UMN educational opportunities about effectively teaching sensitive course content:

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