Teaching controversial issues in the classroom is now more urgent and fraught than ever as we face up to rising authoritarianism, racial and economic injustice, and looming environmental disaster. Despite evidence that teaching controversy is critical, educators often avoid it. How then can we prepare and support teachers to undertake this essential but difficult work? Hard Questions: Learning to Teach Controversial Issues, based on a cross-national qualitative study, examines teacher educators’ efforts to prepare preservice teachers for teaching controversial issues that matter for democracy, justice, and human rights. It presents four detailed cases of teacher preparation in three politically divided societies: Northern Ireland, England, and the United States. The book traces graduate students’ learning from university coursework into the classrooms where they work to put what they have learned into practice. It explores their application of pedagogical tools and the factors that facilitated or hindered their efforts to teach controversy. The book’s cross-national perspective is compelling to a broad and diverse audience, raising critical questions about teaching controversial issues and providing educators, researchers, and policymakers tools to help them fulfill this essential democratic mission of education.
Judith L. Pace is a professor of teacher education at the University of San Francisco, USA. She conducts research on classroom teaching, with a focus on social studies, and the socio-political, cultural, and institutional contexts that shape it.
AcknowledgementsIntroduction: Preparing Preservice Teachers for Controversial Issues
Chapter 1: Mark Drummond: Controversial Issues as a Path toward Reconciliation in Northern Ireland
Chapter 2: What Marks’ Students Learned: Theory and Practice in Teaching Controversial Issues
Chapter 3: Paula Barstow: A Pragmatic and Safe Approach to Controversy in Northern Ireland
Chapter 4: What Paula’s Students Learned
Chapter 5: Ian Shepherd: Teaching Sensitive and Controversial Issues through Historical Inquiry in England
Chapter 6: What Ian’s Students Learned
Chapter 7: Liz Simmons: Teaching Controversial Issues through Democratic Discussion in the U.S. Midwest
Chapter 8: What Liz’s Students Learned
Conclusions, Hard Questions, and Recommendations
About the Author
In a world where respectful political debate often seems overshadowed by polarsing arguments in which opponents simply shout over one another, this book addresses the fundamental issue of how we can deal with hard questions that divide us. Schools provide a potentially important space to induct young citizens into deliberative democratic conversations, where differences can be aired, acknowledged and worked through. Pace addresses not just what is required of teachers to manage this process successfully, but how teachers can be prepared for such an onerous task. In her investigation of these processes, Pace reveals the ways in which pedagogic knowledge, political judgement and democratic values infuse the work of teacher educators and explores the challenges faced by new teachers as they try to develop their own expertise to teach about controversial issues. This account provides a fascinating insight into a crucial area of teacher education and should be required reading for policy-makers and programme leaders as well as teacher educators and new teachers.
This is a fascinating account of how four accomplished teacher educators and their pre-service teachers address similar challenges of controversial issues teaching differently in differing cultural and national contexts. This is a “must read” for teacher educators and teachers of social studies, history/humanities, and civic education, as well as comparative education scholars. Helpfully, Pace draws on insights from her in-depth research to offer thoughtful suggestions for educators to adapt to their particular contexts.
In this thoughtful and critical study, Judith Lee Pace draws on the practice of four experienced teacher educators with significant expertise in teaching controversial issues, including the experiences of their student teachers, to build a robust framework for contained risk taking from the ground up. Utterly practical in its utility, yet firmly rooted in theory and scholarship, this is the book I wish I had read as a novice teacher educator.
Pace's accomplished, discerning book gives teacher educators evidence-based insights for preparing new teachers to focus their instruction on controversial public issues.
With democracy in decline across the globe, it feels like a deeper understanding of how to effectively explore controversial issues has never been more important. This timely book is essential reading for any educator who wants to critically engage with the craft of bringing controversy into the classroom. With a diverse range of contexts explored and analyzed, this book provides the reader with a firm foundation to build effective practice and resilient learning communities.