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Tips and resources for lecturers

Discussing or giving a lecture about a war situation is no easy task. Nonetheless – or maybe for this very reason – students or lecturers do feel the need to have such a discussion during classes. We share here a number of tips and sources to steer the conversation or lecture in the right direction.

Knowledge and understanding of the historical and regional context of the war

Even if you are not an expert on this issue, to have an academic discussion it is important that you are aware of the historical and political context of the war and that you have an understanding of the basic facts. Pay attention to terminology: is it about Palestine or Palestinian areas and/or Hamas, Israel or Jewish people? Be aware of the connotations attached to different terms and what terms are used by official sources.

The University Library has compiled a subject guide together with experts that includes scientific publications, documentaries, films, podcasts and literature: UBL subject guide on Palestine and Israel.

Didactics: discussing war and controversial issues

There are different toolkits that offer guidelines for having a constructive discussion in an educational setting. These cover both good preparation as well as basic principles and working methods that help you conduct a dialogue.

A hot moment is a sudden outburst of tension or conflict during a lesson. Here, ‘hot’ stands for ‘heated, offensive or tense’. When tensions rise and you are caught off guard, there are different techniques and interventions that can help get the discussion back on track. The University of Michigan has developed the Hot Moments in the Classroom guide for these occasions.


Give yourself and your students the opportunity to take a break and calm down: what happened? Acknowledge the emotion and different perspectives. Decide whether you want to discuss this straight away, deal with it separately with individual students, or discuss it during a later lecture.

Questions that explain and depersonalise things can also help with de-escalation. Create a basis to continue the discussion by reverting to the viewpoints or information about which there is agreement and deciding together what is important for a constructive discussion.   

  • Count to ten and consider what is the most appropriate next step: address the situation straight away, talk to students separately or come back to it later?
  • Take a break: give students a few moments to reflect and maybe to write down why this discussion is so challenging.
  • Recognise: express appreciation for the inputs from different perspectives.
  • Clarify: ask for an explanation and give the opportunity to reformulate: ‘Did you mean…?’
  • Depersonalise: discuss the viewpoint without focusing on the speaker: ‘Are there viewpoints and insights that haven’t been shared yet?’
  • Dialogue: ask what is happening and discuss the dynamics within the class.  
  • Frameworks: refer to the frameworks you use for debate and discussion, or discuss and recap what is important for a constructive conversation.
  • Common ground: revert to the viewpoints and information where there was agreement.

Judy Pace, who is a professor at the University of San Francisco, has developed the Framework for Teaching Controversial Issues. 

There are different ways in which you can prepare students  and create an environment in which controversial topics can be discussed. Invest in the development of a learning community, consciously build up your curriculum from ‘cold’ to ‘hot’ topics, and reflect on your role and standpoint as lecturer; make use of specific methodologies in order to create space for diverse voices and to facilitate an open conversation.


  • Start by creating a safe space, for example by making agreements with one another that offer room for openness and dialogue.
  • Be well prepared, make sure you are well informed about the theme and reflect on the viewpoint that you as a lecturer want to adopt.
  • Make a conscious choice about didactic tools, discussion techniques and questions that allow a diverse range of voices to be heard equally.
  • Address emotions by recognising them, and not ignoring them.

You can find the other parts of the framework on the website Framework for Teaching Controversial Issues.

More sources and tools

Lesson briefing: How to discuss the Israel-Palestine conflict

The TerInfo project at Utrecht University has developed a lesson briefing for discussing the Israel-Palestine conflict.
How to discuss the Israel-Palestine conflict (website in Dutch)

Lesson tips from Education Week

Education Week has more lesson tips and information for lecturers on its website: How to Talk About the Israel-Hamas War: Resources for Educators.

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