In my syllabi, I tend to write something about the course being a question-friendly environment. In the upper-level seminars, I explain that, indeed, the purpose of the class is to raise and work through questions.
My classes start next week, and I am teaching fourth-year Theory. Some of you will remember how absolutely fantastic my theory class was last year; all of my (exclusively upper-level) courses were fantastic. They took seriously that question-oriented approach, and I had incredibly high participation rates - all these students musing productively. That had to do with the institution and the cohort of students, though. The raw materials aren't as stellar at Scary City U, if you know what I mean.
So I'm worried about how to create/foster an environment where students aren't afraid to put themselves on the line by raising questions about the texts we're reading. I want them to be able to recognize that some of the material we're reading is difficult, and that means our stance will be a questioning one. Part of this is as simple as having the students feel comfortable identifying passages they just don't understand, or that they find contradictory, etc. This is the way they're going to learn - I can't explain the things they don't understand if I don't know what those things are. There is the added pressure of the fact that there will be a few grad students - including at least one PhD student - in the class. As people noted in their comments to my query about this, grad students can intimidate undergrad students into silence. This would be a very, very bad thing with this material.
So I'm wondering if people have thoughts or experiences they can share, about how they have made their classrooms "question-friendly," so that the students feel comfortable taking the lead in processing the material through close readings and queries of it.