Keep these three ideas in mind when teaching students how to politely disagree and evaluate one another’s ideas, to encourage productive group work.

  • Polite disagreement can create common ground, allowing ideas to be productively evaluated and refined while avoiding blame and acrimony.
  • When a student is rude—or is perceived as rude—collaborative relationships can be damaged.
    • When a student is rude, even unintentionally, other students may respond by becoming rude themselves and a vicious, escalating cycle may result, or the group may otherwise go off-task.
  • It can be helpful to teach students to critique each others’ ideas by using passive voice, referring to ideas rather than individuals within the group (e.g., avoiding "you").
    • This strategy can help to avoid the appearance of assigning personal responsibility or blame for incorrect ideas.
    • At the same time, language emphasizing group membership (e.g., "we") can reinforce common ground shared by students and prevent conflict.