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Student Open Forum

Associate Professor Tee Tyler, Ph.D., LCSW, is making waves with his innovative approach to classroom dialogue. As a prominent figure in the Department of Social Work at TCU, Tyler has developed the Interpersonal Classroom Model (ICM), a teaching methodology that transcends traditional boundaries to foster meaningful dialogue among students from diverse backgrounds.

At the core of Tyler’s philosophy is the belief that group dialogue serves as a catalyst for societal progress. Through the ICM, students are empowered to navigate conversations that transcend traditional boundaries, including sensitive topics like race, religion and gender identity. This approach isn’t just about academic discourse but about cultivating essential interpersonal skills that extend far beyond the classroom walls.

Group work, to me, is, I believe, just the answer to so many different challenges we face in society,” explains Tyler. “Because, really, group work is people coming together to have open conversations in the same room.”

Tyler’s commitment to creating a safe and inclusive space is evident in his approach to group dynamics. By facilitating open forums and guided dialogue opportunities, he navigates the delicate balance between fostering free expression and maintaining focus on critical topics. In the open forum format, students gather in a circle, fostering candid conversations that encourage sharing experiences of marginalization and privilege, leading to profound insights and increased empathy.

Reflecting on the impact of open forum dialogue, Sydney Sanders ’24, a social work and criminal justice major, highlights the importance of allowing students to guide conversations.

“An open forum can help build trust, rapport and develop vulnerability,” Sanders emphasized.

Student Open Forum

Testing the Impact

Tyler’s impact extends beyond the classroom, as seen in his recent study comparing the outcomes of ICM-exposed students to traditional teaching methods. The study revealed higher confidence in leading group meetings and collaborating in interprofessional settings among ICM-exposed students, vital skills in today’s dynamic work environment.

The study delved into students’ engagement in group activities during internships and their preparedness for field group work, revealing insights into the effectiveness of his teaching strategies in enhancing professional readiness.

Recently, Tyler extended use of his ICM teaching approach outside undergraduate courses to offer a student-faculty dialogue program. In this program, Tyler encouraged participants to “leave no good left unsaid” and “share meaningful dialogue memories,” as reflected in posttest feedback where students cited the benefits of conversations about politics, race and diversity in a space where learning from each other was valued.

One student participant mentioned gaining “a sense of community, abundance, hope and optimism that I absolutely did not have before participating in this program.”

From the faculty perspective, Tyler’s study shed light on the broader importance of group dialogue, revealing insights into colleagues’ experiences and the prevalence of ‘imposter syndrome’ within academia. This newfound awareness underscores the role of dialogue circles in creating a safe space for faculty to share challenges and vulnerabilities, fostering mutual support.

Both students and faculty discovered that the dialogue circle provides a platform for meaningful conversations, breaking through hierarchical barriers and nurturing an environment that cherishes and protects diverse voices. This inclusive approach plays a vital role in encouraging understanding and perspective-taking, thereby enhancing the overall educational experience for all participants.

One Bachelor of Social Work student shared how their ICM-taught group practice course positively influenced their professional relationships during their field internship. They mentioned learning valuable skills in reacting to various situations and realizing that everyone faces similar challenges, leading to a more open communication style with supervisors and coworkers, highlighting the practical benefits of Tyler’s teaching approach in real-world professional settings.

Another student participant shared, “I learned that I am not alone on campus and that there is a heart of my peers to change the world,” echoing the positive impact of Tyler’s dialogue-based approach in fostering community and empowerment.

TCU Dialogue CollectiveA Dialogue Collective

Looking ahead, Tyler is not only focused on enriching classroom discussions but also on expanding dialogue initiatives campus wide. He is one of the driving forces behind the TCU Dialogue Collective, an inclusive platform that aims to bring people together through meaningful dialogue. Tyler co-created the Dialogue Collective with fellow TCU staff and faculty members to encourage TCU community members to engage in dialogue with each other, especially dialogue that emphasizes the value of diverse perspectives in intellectual exchanges.

The mission of the Dialogue Collective is to foster a connected campus community through dialogue that builds relationships, increases empathy and enhances perspective-taking. With goals of connecting people interested in dialogue across various academic disciplines and promoting dialogue opportunities through classes, events and programs on campus, the Dialogue Collective aspires to enrich the educational experience at TCU, fostering a culture of mutual respect, curiosity and collaborative learning.

The first official full group meeting for the Collective will occur in fall 2024.