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ERIC Number: EJ868151
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 32
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 69
ISSN: ISSN-0093-3104
Teaching and Learning about Controversial Issues: Lessons from Northern Ireland
King, John T.
Theory and Research in Social Education, v37 n2 p215-246 Spr 2009
Teaching about controversial issues is a powerful tool in the repertoire of civic educators. Despite widespread agreement concerning the social, academic, and civic benefits to be gained from discussing controversial public issues within the classroom, empirical research reveals that doing so is a rare occurrence. While the literature explains this fact by detailing the many challenges confronted by teachers, less attention is given to the emotional and cognitive risks that lead students to evade, and at times actively resist, engaging with controversial issues. This qualitative case study examines the experiences of students and teachers struggling to address issues of national and cultural identity within Northern Ireland in order to investigate dynamics that may remain less visible in contexts where differences and conflict are less overt. Findings reveal a range of responses whereby students attempt to preserve the viability of current understandings and to minimize the risk of critical self-refection. Also indicated are two strategies by which educators were, on occasion, able to support students in listening to and learning from divergent perspectives: by reducing the perception of risk through "cognitive distancing" and by enhancing students' motivation to confront risks by facilitating caring relationships. The comparison of these findings to current research on teaching controversial issues in Northern Ireland and their applicability to other contexts is discussed. (Contains 3 notes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom (Northern Ireland)