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SGG podcast #52: Dean Diana Hess says that disagreement is not always bad


Sport and the Growing Good supports Wisconsin's coaches by bringing research to practice. We interview leading researchers and experts to learn about coach-identified themes.

Diana Hess is the Dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a leading expert on productive classroom discussion. As many coaches in and beyond Wisconsin are regularly challenged to lead their teams through challenging issues, Dean Hess presents a range of research-supported practical insights on listening, learning, and moving forward together. We discussed:

1. Coaching gymnastics at the YMCA and at Downers Grove High School, and the lessons she learned from coaching.

2. Her research on how middle and high school teachers can help their students discuss controversial issues.

3. Disagreement about issues is not a bad thing.

4. Distinctions between “topics” and “issues.”

5. Live controversies vs. settled topics.

6. “When students learn how to participate in discussions of controversial issues, they learn an awful lot about how to think, how to articulate their views, and how to listen to people with whom they disagree.”

7. “We want our students to learn how to talk with people they disagree with.”

8. Asking students to prepare in advance of discussions about controversial issues – but not necessarily to have a firm opinion about them.

9. The importance of getting everyone to participate in discussions – and how to do it.

10. If you want everyone to participate, preparation is the best way to do it.

11. Sports provide us a wonderful opportunity to learn with and from others who are different from us in a number of ways.

12. “It is important that the coach sets a really high standard for how we’re going to respect one another.”

13. Listening.

14. “What I want on my leadership team is genuine disagreement about what we should do...But at some point, we have to make a decision.”

15. “There are some times when a group makes a decision that, for whatever reason, you just can’t support. And then, you really have a hard decision to make. Do I stay with this group or not?”