Controversial Conversations Assessment Rubric

Observers provide a rating for each of the six categories listed below, writing one or two sentences in explanation.

Courage: Respect for Self

In an exemplary conversation, almost all participants (or, in a large group, a broad cross-section of participants) speak. Participants express their own convictions clearly, and voice disagreement repeatedly.

In a satisfactory conversation, many participants speak, and most express their own convictions clearly. At least two or three participants voice disagreement.

In a conversation that needs improvement, most participants remain silent, but a few do express their own convictions clearly, and at least one voices disagreement.

In an unsatisfactory conversation, only a handful of participants speak and/or a single viewpoint dominates.

Civility: Respect for the Other Person

In an exemplary conversation, participants are consistently polite, refrain from negative body language or side talk, and actively encourage one another to speak by asking open-ended or clarifying questions, paraphrasing others’ statements, and identifying valuable insights. These encouraging behaviors are often directed toward persons with whom the speaker disagrees.

In a satisfactory conversation, participations are consistently polite, refrain from negative body language or side talk, and occasionally encourage one another to speak.

In a conversation that needs improvement, the dialogue is generally polite, with only one or two instances of disrespectful language or interruption. Participants rarely or never encourage one another to speak. There may be negative body language or side talk.

In an unsatisfactory conversation, participants use insulting or disrespectful language, interrupt repeatedly, and/or engage repeatedly in negative body language or side talk.

Common Ground: Respect for the Community

In an exemplary conversation, participants build on common values and identify significant areas of consensus, without neglecting real differences. Almost everyone has a positive experience.

In a satisfactory conversation, participants build on common values and identify some areas of consensus. Most people have a positive experience.

In a conversation that needs improvement, participants only occasionally build on common values or identify areas of consensus.

In an unsatisfactory conversation, the dialogue is divisive and unpleasant.

Objectivity: Respect for Facts and Logic

In an exemplary conversation, 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.

In a satisfactory conversation, participants share many relevant facts and generally avoid logical fallacies.

In a conversation that needs improvement, participants share relevant facts occasionally. Logical and illogical arguments are evenly mixed.

In an unsatisfactory conversation, unsubstantiated opinions and illogical arguments dominate.

Values: Respect for Faith and Values

In an exemplary conversation, participants consistently appeal to underlying values, including those rooted in Catholicism and other faith traditions. They explain these values in a manner that is accessible to those who do not share them.

In a satisfactory conversation, participants usually appeal to underlying values, including religious values, and usually explain these in an accessible manner.

In a conversation that needs improvement, participants occasionally appeal to underlying values, including religious values, and occasionally explain these in an accessible manner.

In an unsatisfactory conversation, participants either ignore underlying values or express them in a manner that excludes those holding different values.

Inclusivity: Respect for the Margins and the Middle

In an exemplary conversation, participants who are personally affected by the issue at hand, those who hold minority viewpoints, those who are from underrepresented groups, and those who are uncertain of their views all speak repeatedly, with more than one person in each category participating. Other participants respond consistently to these comments.

In a satisfactory conversation, at least one person in each category above speaks at least once, and other participants respond occasionally.

In a conversation that needs improvement, at least one person from each of two of the categories speaks at least once, and other participants respond at least once.

In an unsatisfactory conversation, participants in the identified groups are absent, silent, or ignored by others.