Prepare for 2024 electionslearn how to support students, faculty, and staff to engage in discourse across political and other forms of difference.

Dialogue Across Difference is designed for K-12 and higher education educators, administrators, and leaders from all disciplinary backgrounds looking to deepen their understanding of issues surrounding civic discourse in educational settings. Learn from experts about the importance of supporting difficult conversations during this election year and ways to address the challenges this presents.

What Sets Us Apart

  Focus on contemporary challenges and opportunities around discussion and polarization
  Connect and learn with a network of peers who share your commitment to sustaining civic discourse in schools
 Gain actionable strategies to implement in your professional context

About the Program

As we head into another national election cycle, the challenges of our increasingly polarized society are daunting. This fall, be prepared to support students, faculty, and staff as they engage in challenging conversations and build cultures that balance freedom of expression and a sense of belonging for all.


 Application Deadline

  • Final Deadline: July 31, 2024

Program StartSeptember 3, 2024

Length & Time Commitment~40 hours over 4 months

Certificate OfferedPenn GSE Certificate of Participation

Credits4 Continuing Education (CE) Credits
40 Pennsylvania ACT 48 Credits


  • Standard rate: $1,500
  • 30% discount for School District of Philadelphia employees
  • 15% discount available for:
    • Penn GSE and Center for Professional Learning alumni
    • University of Pennsylvania employees
    • Groups of 5+ from the same organization, contact us prior to applying. 

 Ideal Candidates

  • K-12 teachers and administrators
  • Higher education faculty and administration
  • Non school-based educators
  • Online
Programs for Working Professionals

In this program, learn from experts about the importance of supporting civic discourse and ways to address the challenges this presents during this election year. Engage in questions such as:

  1. How can teachers prepare students to engage in politically charged conversations while also ensuring students feel a sense of belonging?
  2. How can faculty find space to express their feelings while also not letting their feelings dominate the classroom?
  3. How should schools communicate with various stakeholders (parents, media, student body, faculty)?

Then, work closely with small groups of peers to examine shared challenges from your professional work and connect with and learn from a professional network that shares your commitment to this important and complex work. 

Learning Goals:
  • Understand what civic discourse is and why it is important in a democratic society
  • Explore the line between charged discussion and harmful speech
  • Develop skills and strategies to communicate with parents and other stakeholders about the importance of this work
  • Develop skills and strategies to prepare students to have difficult conversations
  • Develop skills and strategies to support teachers in facilitating difficult conversations


Program Schedule

Explore. Envision. Enact.

This program follows a unique three-part model that is designed to align with research-based best practices in teacher professional development.
  • In Part I: Explore, you will asynchronously engage with a carefully curated curriculum to deepen your own understanding of the program’s topics.
  • In Part II: Envision, attend live virtual workshops led by expert Penn faculty and experienced practitioners, and create a plan for applying your new knowledge and skills.
  • In Part III: Enact, implement your plan in your classroom or school.  At the same time, attend live virtual small group meetings with colleagues to connect, collaborate, reflect, and learn from each other's experiences.
Time CommitmentsSession
September 3, 2024Asynchronous module ~10 hoursPart I: Explore - Learners will deepen their understanding of issues related to civic discourse in school by exploring resources on our online learning platform.
September 9, 2024

5:30 - 7:30 p.m. (ET)

 Workshop #1 - "You Can't Say That: Teaching Controversial Issues in American Schools, from World War One to October 7"

Led by Dr. Jon Zimmerman

September 18, 2024

5:00 - 7:00 p.m. (ET)

Workshop #2 - "Building Conversational Safe Spaces"

Led by Matt Kay

September 25, 2024

5:00 - 7:00 p.m. (ET)

Workshop #3 - "Discussing Our Difficult Past: When Past & Present Collide in Your Classroom"

Led by Dr. Abby Reisman

October 30, 2024

5:00 - 7:00 p.m. (ET)

Workshop #4 - Project Launch

November - DecemberThree synchronous sessions

~2 hours of work for each session

Learners will be organized into groups based on their time zones and availability. Specific dates and times will be scheduled after July 31, 2024.

Part III: Enact - Learners will implement the lessons, policies, activities, and/or experiences they have designed and share and reflect on the results in small discussion groups. The cohort will be divided into sub-groups based on learners’ time zones and focus area to connect, collaborate, reflect, and learn from each other’s experiences in live virtual sessions.

Program Leadership & Staff

Gillian Daar
Program Director

Christopher Pupik Dean
Academic Director

Our Faculty

Penn GSE Faculty Matthew Kay
Penn GSE Faculty Christopher Pupik Dean
Senior Fellow
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
Penn GSE Faculty Abby Reisman
Associate Professor
Ph.D., Stanford University
Penn GSE Faculty Jonathan Zimmerman
Judy and Howard Berkowitz Professor in Education
Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University

What Alumni Are Saying About Similar Programs

“It has given me a whole new way to think about how to help my students learn.”

“This program is extremely creative, thought provoking, and relevant. There are very few programs like this out there.”

“I feel reenergized after participating.”