Inviting controversy into the classroom




Collins-Emery, Amy

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The potential for controversy, differences in opinion and wonderment to form the foundations for critical inquiry and stimulating conversation, was recognized by William Hazlitt (1830) who stated, “when a thing ceases to be a subject of controversy, it ceases to be a subject of interest” (n.p.). Controversy is a topic of interest for adolescents, and by providing structured strategies, teachers can facilitate their students’ engagement with controversial issues in a civil and informed manner. The capacity to effectively discuss a charged topic is a significant life skill. The literature review discusses the importance of integrating controversial issues and instruction strategies for approaching such themes and relating them to the curriculum. Theoretical approaches and implementation challenges are also examined. The teaching resource developed for this project for discussing controversial issues in the classroom includes three interdependent layers: the creation of a supportive classroom environment; overt instruction in critical skills of thinking, literacy and dialogue; and, situated practice of the critical skills taught in a supported context.



critical dialogue, critical literacy, critical thinking, Controversy, Classroom Culture