A guide to challenging conversations

AdobeStock 56705483 SMALL

The Guide to challenging conversations provides some guiding strategies for facilitating issues-based discussions in the classroom, especially issues which may be considered challenging for a variety of reasons. These strategies also acknowledge that any topic has the potential to raise questions and concerns for students and teachers, especially when the issue or topic encourages different perspectives. The different perspectives and viewpoints may for instance relate to social, political, environmental, religious, ethical or moral, historical, economical or legal considerations, and/or these perspectives may be informed by students’ lived experiences including family or community views and values. 

There are several benefits to having issues-based conversations with students. These include:

  • Understanding of students’ perspectives, views and values
  • Skills and understandings of democratic debate
  • Demonstrate how issues connect from the personal to the local, national and international levels, and across sectors
  • Opportunities to connect conversations to the work and processes
    of Parliament
  • Developing critical and creative thinking skills and empathy
  • Provide opportunities to amplify student voice
  • Developing research and information literacy skills and using evidence to support arguments and perspectives.


The skills students learn from having challenging conversations are important in developing their critical and creative thinking, but also help to develop opportunities for student voice and agency. The Department of Education and Training’s ‘Amplify’ document (see Additional resources) provides an overview of why student voice in the classroom and schools is important. These strategies are flexible and adaptable to take into account teaching context, age of the students, appropriateness of topic and depth of discussion, as well as school and community expectations. The strategies emphasise beginning from students’ personal perspectives to an understanding of multiple perspectives on an issue, rather than arriving at a ‘correct’ perspective.


V1 Challenging Conversations Page 01

Download the resource