The David Mathews Center for Civic Life and the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) recently completed the final three in a series of seven Moderator Development Workshops across the state in 2013. Approximately 180 guidance counselors and school administrators attended the three workshops in the following counties: Montgomery (September 25), Marengo (October 1), and Calhoun (October 3). The workshops proved engaging and informative.

All three half-day workshops followed a similar agenda: an introduction of the Mathews Center and public deliberation, an abbreviated forum on bullying, an engaging discussion of moderator and recorder techniques and practices, and a mock forum for participants to test their new moderating and recording skills.

Each workshop began with a word of welcome and introduction from a representative of the ALSDE Prevention and Support Services. Following opening remarks, DMC Executive Director Chris McCauley introduced the Mathews Center, public deliberation, and the workshop’s agenda.

The group then participated in an abbreviated forum on the bullying issue using Bullying: What is it? How do we prevent it? to guide their deliberation. Common themes emerged in all three workshop forums around consistently defining bullying in the school and community, equipping young people to address bullying through role-playing activities, educating parents about bullying—particularly cyberbullying, and engaging community organizations in bullying solutions. The groups concurred that eliminating bullying requires parents, schools, students, and the community working together.

For many workshop participants, the abbreviated forum served as their first experience with public deliberation. During the forum, participants engaged with the issue, examined multiple approaches, weighed costs and tradeoffs, worked through tensions, and identified common ground. After concluding deliberation, participants reflected on the deliberative forum process and thought through strategies for engaging students, parents, and community members in bullying forums.

Following a brief break, the group worked through the Mathews Center’s Moderator Development Handbook. The Handbook details the various components of moderating and recording deliberative forums, outlines key questions to stimulate deliberation, and provides helpful practices aimed at managing conflict and making disagreement productive. Participants engaged with the material in the Handbook and composed questions they could use to prompt deliberation.

The group honed their moderating and recording skills in a mock forum at the conclusion of each workshop. Participants took turns moderating and recording the forum welcome, deliberation, and reflection. Several workshop participants took on different characters and perspectives to test their colleagues moderating skills.

As the workshop came to a close, participants reflected on their experience, shared ideas with one another, and picked up DMC resources. We look forward to hearing how workshop participants implement their newly developed moderating and recording skills in their classrooms and communities!

The Mathews Center would like to thank the ALSDE Prevention and Support Services for organizing the engaging series of Moderator Development Workshops.