How Objectivity is Exemplified in our Controversial Conversations at CSB and SJU

Of all the dialogue components we have identified, we have devoted the least attention to objectivity. As was the case for common ground, the initial survey revealed relatively small gaps between ideal and real scores. The five behaviors in this cluster were all rated as positive or very positive, and the mean reality scores for all five were greater than 3 (see Table 15, Components of Dialogue and Conversational Behaviors).

The results from our spring 2007 observations were somewhat less positive. We defined a conversation with exemplary objectivity as one in which “participants share most of the facts relevant to the topic, acknowledging their own biases as appropriate. Participants consistently explain their presuppositions, avoid logical fallacies, and ask clarifying questions of one another.” Only 22.6% of observations resulted in an exemplary rating for this component, a lower rate than for all components except inclusiveness. No single phrase in the definition, moreover, can account for this low rate. It is clear that there is significant room for improvement in this area. We have no particular suggestions for how this improvement might be achieved, although we would note that a number of people on our campus have expressed interest in the model of fact-based dialogue developed by Americans for Informed Democracy (see Table 20, Controversial Conversations Assessment Rubric: Spring 2007 Results).