teaching_about_controversial_issues by nuhman10


									MODULE TITLE          Teaching About Controversial Issues
                      By Balbir Sohal, Citizenship Regional Subject Advisor (West

                                  Module Summary
This module aims to explore what makes an issue controversial and supports
participants by providing tools and information needed in order to teach about
controversial issues.
Introductory activity – What is a controversial issue?
Participants bring with them an object (book, picture, artefact, newspaper article etc)
that for them is a controversial issue.
Or/and complete questionnaire individually and then share responses
Main activity 1 – Five principles on teaching about controversial issues
World Café Activity on five statements.
Main activity 2 – Whose beliefs, whose values?
Group discussion on main positions open to teachers when conducting discussion on
controversial issues. Using a series of scenarios, what stance would you take?
Plenary activity – Reflections and next steps
Participants reflect on the session and apply one or more of the techniques explored in
the session.

Participants will...
     understand what controversial issues are and why they should be taught.
     develop confidence in exploring controversial issues.
     be able to apply classroom strategies for handling and exploring controversial
     have an overview as to what guidance exists for handling controversial issues.
MODULE TITLE               Teaching About Controversial Issues
                           By Balbir Sohal, Citizenship Regional Subject Advisor (West

Module overview
   • Understand what makes a controversial issue
   • How schools can provide safe spaces for their young people to discuss openly issues
     that concern them
   • Exploring tools that can be used to debate controversial issues
   • Teaching strategies that promote open respectful dialogue including questioning
     techniques to open up safe debate
   • Explore how teachers can help develop these skills in young people
   • Explore bias
   • Promote skills for democratic participation
   • Develop pupils’ conceptual knowledge about rights and responsibilities, government
     and democracy and identities and communities.

Recommended module delivery plan (3 hours)
Each element is supported by information on the PowerPoint presentation.
5mins:        Introductory slides supplied by ACT and Slide 4 – Aim of session

15 mins      Slide 5 - If participants have brought along artefacts, discuss:
   • Why they have brought it and what is controversial about it?
   • Or distribute questionnaire, ask participants to do the quiz individually and then share in pairs the
      response then process as a whole group. Discussion as to what it is that makes a issue

10 mins        Slide 6 – 11
Making Sense of Citizenship’, the CPD handbook, defines controversial issues as ‘issues about which
different groups disagree and hold strong opinions. They are issues which divide society and arouse strong
feelings and/or deal with fundamental questions of value and belief’. However, it should be remembered
that controversy exists at both the micro as well as the macro level and students should be encouraged to
appreciate the existence of differences of opinion and value conflict from an early age, long before they
are asked to deal with the big issues. For example, the use of stories can be used as a basis for discussing
different views on a range of topics, including:
    • right and wrong
    • issues of fairness
    • people’s rights and responsibilities
    • people’s behaviour
    • their possible reasons for action
    • possible consequences of actions
    • relevant rules or laws.

Discussion and analysis of controversial issues helps students learn that:
    • concepts are contested (e.g. the meaning of what a right is or the nature of responsibility)
    • values and visions of society are contested (e.g. ‘what would an equal and fair society look like?’)
Personal opinions are a mixture of facts, opinions and values. Facts and opinions can be challenged but
some of our most deeply held views are closely linked to values or defining beliefs which are less capable
of being challenged rationally, for example,
    • ‘I believe we have a duty to help others in this world.’
    • ‘Life is a jungle, it’s everyone for themselves.’

As we grow up, some values or beliefs become so closely identified with our own sense of self (e.g. it’s
wrong to eat animals) that to attack that belief comes to be experienced as a personal attack. Adolescence
is a period when personal ideologies begin to emerge, particularly in KS4. During this period students’
opinions become internally more consistent with each other and more clearly based on underlying moral
principles than when they were younger.

Slide 7
The advantages of basing debates in citizenship on topics of current interest are:
    • It helps students understand the background to issues they hear discussed on the news
    • there is likely to be range of resources available
    • students are already likely to have an opinion on the matter, which can be built upon
    • discussion of political or contested issues helps to build understanding of how society works in a
        real context, not as disembedded ‘text book’ knowledge.

A balance of coverage of topical controversial issues should be aimed for. The disadvantage in building
courses too much around controversial issues is that no syllabus should be over-determined by what is in
the news, because there is the possibility that this approach would make systematic coverage of the
citizenship curriculum or its key concepts more difficult.

The ideal would seem to be to aim for a settled course structure capable of covering the syllabus whilst
keeping an eye on the news for current examples which bring to life key aspects of the syllabus. On
occasions, it will be desirable, if a big enough issue emerges, to abandon the planned lesson and deal with
the current crisis, tying it to previous work or laying the groundwork for the issue to be re-visited later.

Slide 8 - Self explanatory

Slide 9 - Links to the New National Curriculum and preparing pupils for the 21 st Century

Slide 10
Why - because it brings the subject to life … Without topically citizenship lessons might:
Become irrelevant to students’ lives
Focus on process not content e.g. the number of MPs etc
Topical issues of the day
Some open ended lessons in unit of work

Slide 11
Some teachers may feel that the main value of discussing topical controversial issues is more in the
process than the product. On this view, understanding an ephemeral issue is less important than the
development of the skills of critical thinking, discussion and the dispositions associated with democratic
discourse. The marks of a good discussion would therefore be thought of as:
    • students showing they can take turns and listen to each other,
   •   many students participating at some level,
   •   a range of arguments being advanced on different sides of the question.

Nevertheless, all issues should also be seen as opportunities to access the key citizenship concepts (e.g
justice, equality, conflict - see CPD Handbook, chapter 1 or the Crick report p 45) and students’ attention
should regularly be drawn to what the issue tells them about these underlying ideas. At the end of any
such discussion, it is helpful for the teacher to assist students in debriefing (meta-thinking), using
questions such as the following:
    • what kind of arguments are used by people on this issue?
    • on what key issues does this debate seem to hinge?
    • on what kind of values or beliefs are these arguments based?
    • were there any major arguments which did not get properly raised?
    • what vocabulary, terms, concepts are used in this debate? Is everyone clear about their meaning?
    • were any factual issues raised in the debate which could usefully be explained in more detail after
        the debate? (Students often display only partial understanding of e.g. how the law works and it is
        not always appropriate to halt a discussion in mid flow.)

Are all opinions equally valid? Laws cannot prevent people from holding extreme views provided these are
kept private and do not lead to action. There are some views which are publicly forbidden, e.g. incitement
to racial hatred. In school, citizenship lessons provide a forum in which any non-offensive view should be
able to be aired. These are the rules and values of ‘public debate’, based on the human rights values of
freedom of conscience, religion and expression, the right to privacy and to participate, and also (for young
people) the right to be heard. Discussion of controversial issues is not preparation to engage in public
discourse later in life, it is public discourse itself and young people are discussing these issues as citizens,
not as citizens-in-waiting.

Nevertheless, some opinions are ‘better’, or more adequate, than others in the sense that:
   • some are better evidenced than others (more true, factually speaking),
   • some show awareness of a greater range of factors than others (e.g. some opinions display little
      awareness of the rights of other people or of the needs of society).

40 mins       Slide 12 – 13 World Café Activity
Using the World Café process (see instructions handout) participants discuss the Five Principles drawn
from work of Robin Richardson (handout).

10 mins        Slide 14 – 15 Safe Environment
Schools are experienced as quite hostile places for many students, especially when it comes to revealing
deeply held values and opinions. Nevertheless, a good relationship between teacher and class can develop
over time, with students feeling progressively able to discuss matters of personal sensitivity.

Training students to respect what other people say, emphasising ground rules such as ‘no put downs’, ‘no
personal remarks’, can greatly assist in the creation of a safe environment. Even so, schools are public
places and students’ right to privacy should be respected. It is known that students often dislike being
singled out in discussions to talk about personal beliefs or experiences, particularly without warning or if
this marks them out as ‘different’.

The development of an open atmosphere of enquiry can encourage students whose attitudes may be
narrow or bigoted to become more receptive to other ideas. If they feel themselves to be the ‘target’ of a
lesson on, for example, homophobia, they are much more likely to deflect or ignore what is said.
Teachers should always be aware of the possibility that topics may be sensitive or painful for some
students. Sometimes a private word before a lesson can be helpful. Equally, a judgement may need to be
taken that a class is not yet ready to discuss some issues or that others need to be carefully structured if
they are not to be hurtful or damaging. Some controversial issues may be better discussed through third
person analysis of ‘what people say’ than by asking students to debate an issue ‘in their own voice’.

10 mins             Slide 16 (mini activity)
        Discussion 'What are we trying to do in the classroom?'
Change opinion? Challenge opinion? Develop opinion? Validate opinion? Promote action? Consider

Possible break of 15 minutes

10 mins
Slide 16 – 17 Self explanatory

Slide 18 – The importance of talk in discussing controversial issues
Go over differences between pedagogic dialogue and Dialogic Pedagogy.

The ‘Philosophy for Children method’ offers a child-centred method of discussion which gives students a
high degree of ownership of the debate. A stimulus is offered to the class and students are invited to
generate a range of critical questions arising from the stimulus. These questions must be ‘philosophical’ or
capable of being discussed. Students themselves vote on which question to pursue. The class is seated in a
circle, with the teacher as a member of the circle. Some classes are trained to speak without waiting for
the teacher to point to them – the rule is not to speak over the top of anyone else. In this way, the class
carries the discussion forward for long periods of time with no intervention from the teacher. For
information on training in the Philosophy for Children method go to www.sapere.org.uk.

The standard pattern or procedure of a community of philosophical enquiry is something like this:
1. Preparation - sometimes to still minds, e.g. by meditation, sometimes to stir, e.g. by games
2. Presentation - of a story, picture, or other rich stimulus for enquiry
3. Thinking time - private reflection upon the stimulus
4. Conversation - sharing of private reflections, in twos or threes
5. Formulation - of questions that might be 'good for discussion', individually or in small groups
6. Airing - publication of questions, and clarification of the interest/thinking behind them
7. Selection - of which question(s) to focus on, by whole group consensus or voting
8. 'First words' - initial responses to the chosen question, perhaps identifying assumptions
9. Building - creative and critical thinking towards one or more answers to the question
10. 'Last words' - final reflections on own or others' thinking

Slide 19 - Self explanatory

10 mins
Slide 20 - Thinking skills activity
Conscience Alley is a drama technique which exposes conflicts and dilemmas and invites participants to
think of multiple perspectives on an issue or situation. (Similar to ‘good angel, bad angel’)
The process - The class makes two lines facing each other, in the form of an ally or corridor with enough
room for a person to walk easily between them
One individual takes on the role of the character in a key situation
The rest of the class voice the characters thoughts and feelings as s/he walks past them
It’s alright if someone earlier has already said the same thing
It is helpful if you do the exercise more than once as it gives less confident pupils the chance to speak.
Possibly freeze the character and get pupils to voice the thoughts again

Play the song 'I don't like Mondays', or read out the lyrics. The girl in the song walks along the corridor to
the room where she is going to shoot her classmates. Use this as a stimulus for the process. It helps pupils
to contribute and respond to a particular situation or dilemma. It is particularly good for gauging
responses to political acts, or interpersonal developments.

15 mins
Slide 21 – 22 Explanation notes on techniques
Slide 21
Thought Tracking:
This is a reflective technique which interrupts a piece of drama in order that pupils can reflect on what's
happening. Groups are asked to improvise from the point of interruption, the action is then stopped and
the teacher process by asking actors what they are thinking of and what are their motivation at that point
in the drama
Take the Power:
Many controversial issues have a power relationship between groups. This drama technique draws out
the power relationships in a situation. And ask participants how power relationships can be changed. For
example start of with a scenario from a novel, group can develop a tableau which shows the power
relationships. A pupil has to enter the group and they take up a position in the group which changes the
power balance.
Hot seating:
This is a questioning technique, group prepare questions to ask the person in the hot seat, it is best to do
this activity in groups first before shifting the hot seating to the front of the class.
Mantel of the expert:
This technique was developed by Dorothy Heathcote through work with children and teachers. This gives
pupils a fictional ‘frame’ within which they can take responsibility for a situation. Pupils are given ‘expert’
information or they may research the information in advance, participants assume responsibility for the
activity. The situation is usually task orientated, power and responsibility move from teacher to pupils.
Listening Triads:
Two people talk, discussing an issue whilst one listens, encourages reflective dialogue. Share discussions
and points of views with whole class
Peer questions and Envoying:
Generate questions which are open ended from pupils gives them ownership of the discussion. Group
could generate a load of questions and then choose three to discuss. Person to take a question and then
move from group to group. Finally the person goes back to original group and feeds back discussion points
Questioning the author:
Pupils to question the author about a book – this takes the process from open ended to critical thinking.
After reading the book possible questions may include:
    • What is your own view on this subject?
    • Whose views are not represented in this book?
    • What choices have you made about what to include and what to leave out?
   •   Why did you describe xxx as yyy?

Slide 22
Diamond Nine:
Develops dialogic talk, it also forces the need to achieve consensus and negotiate disagreements. Teacher
in advance prepares nine cards (quotes, pictures, cartoons). In groups cards are read and discussed and
then arranged in a diamond shape with the statements they most agree with at the top and the least at
the bottom. Involves weighing up different points of views, pupils made to think logically and deal with
any dissent. Useful discussion as a whole class discussion on a topic
Role play:
Teacher or pupils take on a role in an imagined situation
Writing in role: pupils create a document from a perspective of a character or person other than
Role on the wall:
This strategy can be used to represent a real or fictional character. A simple outline is drawn on the wall in
the space around pupils write all the things they know about the character on the outside of the outline.
They can also put questions that they want answered, in the space within the outline they write words
that describe how the character is feeling. The ‘Role on the wall’ can be kept as a living commentary and
the character can be revisited
Freeze frame:
Still picture, still image, tableau – a three dimensional picture using body language, facial expressions and
space to convey meaning. This is especially useful for explaining pivotal moments in a narrative or in
pupil’s lives. Photographs taken during a freeze frame and then discussed afterwards are very valuable
and captions can be used alongside
Silent dialogue:
Extracts, pictures enlarged to A3 pasted on sugar paper/flip chart. In pairs pupils to have a ‘conversation’
about the extract, NO talking but write comments, observations to each others comments. If you wish
circulate the questions, until they get back to original couple.
Line of conscience:
This is useful when examining and challenging beliefs and attitudes. Teacher creates a series of
controversial statements about eh subject or issue explored. An imaginary line running along the floor in
the classroom, the teacher reads out a statement and pupils stand at various points of the line as to
whether they strongly agree, strongly disagree or not sure (in the middle). Teacher whilst moving along
continuum asks why they have placed themselves there, response is shared not judged. Pupils offered a
chance to move to a new position on the line if they have changed their mind, or feel differently about the

Slide 23 – Firing and Wiring
By using a range of strategies we are enabling our young people to process information, to be able to
compare and help equip them to make decisions. This slide shows brain activity when a person is engaged
with the process

Slide 24 – Developing Reasoned Opinion
 Some teachers might take the view that the main purpose of discussing such topics is to help students
‘make up their minds’ on the issue in question. Others have suggested that a mark of success would be
when students realise the issue is more, not less, complicated than they thought at the beginning of the
lesson. One of the characteristics of democratic discourse is that participants should continue to be open-
minded, prepared to change their minds in the light of new insights as understanding develops.
Public discourse has its own distinctive procedures or thought processes (like science or maths) which are
learnt through discussion and meta-reflection. Students should become increasingly familiar with the most
common forms of thought and procedures encountered, such as:
    • identifying who is affected in any way,
    • considering the rights of those involved and the duties people owe them
    • considering relevant moral principles, e.g killing is wrong or it is wrong to be disloyal to a friend
    • thinking about what outcome would make most people happy (utilitarian considerations )
    • identifying and resolving conflicting claims (e.g in what ways are individual rights pitted against
        considerations of the common good)
    • resolving moral conflicts e.g. when having to decide on the ‘lesser of evils’
    • knowing how to use arguments commonly encountered such as ‘slippery slope’ reasoning.

It is worth noting here that Ofsted has recognised the difficulties facing teachers in developing skills of
participation and responsible action. It may not be possible to provide all students with equal
opportunities to engage in responsible social action, whether in school or the community. Nevertheless,
when students develop proposals for change and are able to present these in a public forum (including the
class or assembly) or put them in writing to community representatives, then Ofsted believes they are
developing the skills of participation as defined by the orders.

30 mins Slides 25 - 30
Slide 25 – Activity: Whose beliefs, whose values?
Participants to be in groups and given the hand out with the 4 different perspectives ( source adapted
from 'Towards umbunto', C. Carter, C. Harber and J. Serf, TIDE~, Birmingham 2003). Ask them to decide
which approach they would use for the situations on Slide 26

Slide 27
Complete neutrality on an issue may not be possible however hard the teacher tries. Unwittingly, by word
or gesture, something of the teacher’s own approval or disapproval of certain views may show through.
Nevertheless, the duty not to knowingly manipulate or influence student opinion in a particular direction
remains, with the exception of the duty placed on public bodies to promote race equality under the Race
Relations (Amendment) Act 2000.

In general there are three main positions open to teachers when conducting discussions of controversial
    • Neutral chair – this approach was championed by the Schools Council Humanities Curriculum
        Project in the 1970s. The project advocated the provision of a range of stimulus material for
        students to research which would lead to exploration and discussion. Teachers were advocated
        never to reveal their own positions. The advantages are obvious but students sometimes wish to
        know the teacher’s view and in certain circumstances this seems entirely reasonable.
    • Balanced approach – in this approach the teacher ensures that a range of views is presented to
        students, even if this means providing a personal judgement to balance other opposing views.
        Sometimes teachers will champion views they do not personally hold (devil’s advocate)
    • Committed participant – the teacher joins in the discussion as a full member of the class. The
        advantage of this position is that teachers can be open and honest about their own views and can
        model political or moral commitment for students. As one teacher put it, ‘How can I expect
        students to express their opinions if I’m not prepared to express mine?’. However, teachers taking
        this position must ensure that any views they offer are open to democratic challenge by the
       students and opinions must not be presented as truth. Further, the teacher should take into
       account the age and maturity of the group – younger pupils would be far more likely to accept the
       teacher’s views as authoritative, than would students in KS4 or ‘KS5’.

Slide 28
A range of techniques can be used to encourage exploratory consideration of a subject. For example:
    • Small group exercises to enable the identification of the main issues. One technique is to have an
        inner row of chairs facing outwards and an outer row of chairs facing inwards, with students
        opposite each other in pairs. Students discuss with one other student and then move around the
        circle to pair up with another student to talk about the same or a different issue,
    • ‘Snowballing’ in which pairs of students develop some ideas, then pair with another two students
        to agree on a list of points, moving on to share these with another four. This is followed by plenary
        discussion of what has emerged. This may result in a ‘map’ of the issue with students perhaps
        voting on which issue to look at in more detail,
    • Students are given a range of research tasks (probably in small groups). Sources could include
        news reports, magazine articles, survey data, and internet researches. Students feed back their
        findings to the whole class and offer reflections on what they have found.

There has been a great deal of research into classroom discussion. Some research has suggested that little
genuine discussion takes place in class. One of the reasons for this is the tendency for teachers to
dominate the content and direction of classroom talk. This can happen in a number of ways including:
   • commenting on every student contribution then asking a new question,
   • asking closed questions, which limit or dictate student responses
   • not allowing enough time for student thought before they are expected to answer
   • conducting a conversation with the most able and motivated in the class, leaving the rest as
       disengaged spectators.

Research suggests that as teachers talk less, students talk more. As teachers lengthen their ‘wait time’
following a question, the length and quality of students’ responses improves correspondingly. Small buzz
groups can ensure that every student is able to say something if asked to do so, without feeling
intimidated. Mixing discussion between taking points from volunteers and ‘going round the circle’
underlies the value the teacher places on allowing everyone the chance to speak. (Students should be
allowed to pass, but the teacher should try to assure them that their contribution will be valued later in
the lesson when they have had a chance to think.)

In supporting quality reflective discussion, a number of procedural questions prove to be useful for
    • why do you say that?
    • how does that compare with what X was saying?
    • what could you say to persuade someone they were wrong about that?
    • why do you think people behave like that?
    • who do you feel (most) sympathy for in this situation?
    • what are the consequence of A compared with B?
    • is that fair, in your opinion?

Slides 29 – 30 Handling students opinions
Displacement activities – cards /scenarios
Slide 30
Sometimes discussions fall flat. There may be a number of reasons for this:
    • the subject does not seem relevant or interesting to the class, e.g. taxation or voting methods
    • The question may be pitched at too generalised a level which students are not yet capable of
    • Students have insufficient personal experience on which to draw such that they cannot make
        enough sense of the issue or generate thoughts of their own.

Many potentially complex social issues can be discussed as long as they are pitched at an appropriate
level, particularly if embedded in a recognisable ‘slice of life’. Most people (including adults) need to have
an element of ‘human interest’ before they become engaged with an issue (note the way news reporters
introduce stories about tax changes or whatever, with real life examples).

Slide 31
The legal guidelines outlined here appear clear enough. Differences in party political views represent one
of the major divisions in society, namely the spectrum from left wing to right wing. However, other major
spectrums of opinion are progressive/conservative (not always the same as left wing/right wing) and
religious/secular. That these spectrums can cut across each other in complex ways is obvious as shown by
the way MPs vote when conscience issues come before Parliament.

It is worth bearing in mind that the European Convention on Human Rights protects the rights of parents
to bring children up in their own philosophical or religious beliefs. This can present problems for teachers,
e.g. when trying to promote tolerance (say, of homosexuality) where parents could see this as
undermining their views. In such cases, if parents complained, teachers would need to defend the
discussion of such an issue on the basis of enabling all students to understand the nature of the public
debate about homosexuality and of developing in all students the ability to defend their own views.

Such concerns, often unspoken, underlie many teachers’ reluctance to get involved with the discussion of
controversial issues. Subject coordinators may find it helpful to produce a written policy on this aspect of
citizenship both for the guidance of colleagues but also to make clear to parents that controversial issues
will and must be included in the citizenship curriculum.

The Crick report contains a helpful discussion of this issue, with particular reference to the role of the
teacher (pp 56 – 61). The report is downloadable from

Slide 32 – 33 Self explanatory

10mins:        Completion of ACT evaluation forms

Resources required
      Projector and computer
      PowerPoint presentation
      CD player if playing song 'I don't like Mondays'

   Activity 1 – What is a controversial issue?
   Choose from the following two activities
      Request participants to bring with them to the session an object which they think is controversial
       (artefact , newspaper cutting, book, picture etc)
      Questionnaire handout - 'Teaching about controversial issues , initial questionnaire' (J.Hayward)

   Activity 2 - Five key principles
    Information sheet on how to conduct a world café session
    Five principles of teaching about controversial issues handout
    Different coloured felt markers, pens, crayons
    Paper table cloths (or flip chart paper taped together to cover tables)

   Activity 3 – Whose beliefs, whose values?
    PowerPoint slide
    Handling Teacher Opinion handout
    Scenario cards – classroom situations

ACT Evaluation forms

Useful links and resources
Association for Citizenship Teaching


Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency

Citizenship Foundation

Hilary Claire & Cathie Holden          'The Challenge of Teaching Controversial Issues', Trentham Books,
Global Citizenship Guides,             'Teaching Controversial Issues', Oxfam, 2006
                                       'Umbunto', Tide,
Robin Richardson                       'Five Principles on Teaching about Controversial Issues'
                                       Insted http://www.insted.co.uk/

'Making Sense of Citizenship: A CPD Handbook', Chapter 6, 'approaches to Learning and Teaching –
Controversial Issues', DfES, 2004

Guidance on Conflict in the Middle East – Issues for School (NUT website)

Guidance for schools on dealing with the BNP (ACT)
Teaching controversial issues – initial questionnaire

Activity 1 – Handout
1. Which of the following would you classify as a controversial issue for the purposes of teaching

               Animal rights                       Gay rights                                          Racism

               Women's rights                      Abortion                                            The existence of God

               Euthanasia                          Evolution                                           Policy on immigration/asylum

2. Imagine the following comments were made by a pupil during a

                                                                                                                                 depends on the context

                                                                                                                                                          Not acceptable in most
                                                                                                                                  Might be acceptable,
                                                                               This is acceptable in
lesson on the relevant topic.

                                                                                                          Acceptable if it was

                                                                                                                                                                                   Never acceptable
                                                                                  most contexts

                                                                                                              argued for

Tick which box best describes your views on the comments

                                                 Gay sex should be illegal

                                               Religion should be banned

                       There are too many Asians living in this country

                               Men are better than women at most things

             Any baby born with a severe disability should be put down
                                       America deserved September 11

                       Anyone who thinks animals have rights is crazy

3. Imagine the following came out a teacher's mouth while
                                                                                                                                 depends on the context

                                                                                                                                                          Not acceptable in most
                                                                                                                                  Might be acceptable,
                                                                               This is acceptable in

teaching a relevant topic to a year 8 group. The teacher was using
                                                                                                          Acceptable if it was

                                                                                                                                                                                   Never acceptable
                                                                                  most contexts

their own voice e.g. not said for shock tactics or as role play.
                                                                                                              argued for


Tick which box best describes your views on the comments.

                                            Cannabis should be legalised

                                              Immigration is out of control

                                          I think it is wrong to eat animals

                            I'm going to vote for the BNP in the election

                                I'm going to vote for labour in the election

                                   I think a woman's place is in the home

               Most unemployed people are just sponging off the state

Questionnaire (credit to Jeremy Hayward)
Activity 2 – Five Principles (acknowledgement to Robin Richardson)
Thinking for themselves

First, the fundamental educational task is to help learners think for themselves,
and to sort out and clarify their emotions and values. They therefore need skills
in weighing up evidence, choosing between alternatives, thinking about pros
and cons, listening and reflecting before coming to a conclusion, developing
empathy for people with whom they disagree, and abiding by rules and
conventions of mutual respect and civil argument.

So it is often appropriate to turn pupils’ questions round – ‘What do you think?’,
‘Why?’, 'Have you always thought that?’, ‘Are there other ways of seeing this?’,
‘What would count as evidence for or against your point of view?’, ‘What do you
think might cause you to change your mind?’

Second, it is miseducation or even indoctrination to say or imply there is
consensus around certain issues when in fact there is not. In national society,
as also of course across world society as a whole, there are substantial
differences of values and policies.

It can in fact be reassuring to children and young people, as distinct from
merely alarming or depressing, to be reminded that their elders are in
disagreement with each other about important matters. It may be more
important for them to live with differences and uncertainties rather than to
settle for over-simple solutions.

Controversy, not only about current issues but also about how to interpret the
past, is the lifeblood of democracy. It is important that learners should
recognise and welcome this, as distinct from being afraid of it.

Third, it is essential to provide safe environments. Fears of ridicule or of being
isolated may lead learners to be wary about expressing their own views or
about asking questions, or thinking aloud – classroom discussions can be
under-heated, as the term might be, rather than too lively.

So it is frequently necessary, before hard and conflictual issues are broached
and discussed, to establish an atmosphere of mutual trust. This may sometimes
involve the use of various activities and exercises which are not immediately or
directly relevant to the subject-matter under consideration.

Also, it involves using process drama, listening triads, ranking exercises,
imaginative literature, case studies, dilemmas in everyday life, hot-seating,
buzzing, communication games, visual material, and so on. It is also valuable if
pupils formulate their own rules of procedure and if these are published as a
wall poster.
Expression and threat

Fourth, it follows that a balance has to be struck between freedom of
expression and freedom from threat. Freedom of thought and expression is an
important value and should be protected in schools as in wider society. It is
crucial, in classroom discussions, that pupils should be able to think aloud and
to form ideas and opinions through dialogue, debate and disagreement.

Freedom of expression is not, however, an absolute value. For it has to be
balanced with the equally important right not to be threatened or abused. In
practice, the law of the land often puts the right of a person to live in peace and
security higher than the right of another person to express their views in
insulting and threatening ways.

This is usually appropriate in schools as well – freedom of expression does not
include the right to be threatening and abusive, particularly towards pupils who
are especially vulnerable to hate crimes on the streets, and to racist taunts and
bullying within the school’s own sphere of influence.
Fifth, there are certain fundamental moral principles enshrined in national law
and international human rights standards. It is entirely appropriate for teachers
and other adults to assert and stress the values in, for example, the Universal
Declaration on Human Rights, or in UK and European anti-discrimination

That said, the educational task is to foster understanding of the principles
underlying legislation, and commitment to those principles, not just inform
pupils what is and is not legally acceptable. It must also be acknowledged there
are legitimate disagreements sometimes about what the rights and laws involve
in practice, and how competing rights and priorities are to be balanced.

If children and young people are to understand the spirit of the law, not just
the letter, they need to be initiated into the debates that the adult world has
conducted over the decades and centuries, not merely be told historical or legal
Activity 2 – Instructions for World Café Activity

                                                          The World Café1

                                                          The World Café is a simple way of having a conversation around an important question. The
                                                          room will be set up to resemble a café setting with people seated around the tables. Each
                                                          table has a paper tablecloth and the discussion is captured by writing or drawing directly
                                                          onto the cloth. The conversations around the tables should link and build on each other as
                                                          people move round the table. At the end of the process the main ideas will be captured for
                                                          the final plenary session.

                                                          So how does it work?
                                                                1. In groups discuss the statement (one of the five principles) which is placed in the
                                                                   centre of the table cloth.
                                                                2. Participants will have approx 5 minutes to discuss ideas related to the theme and
                                                                   to write down their ideas on the tablecloth - don’t' worry about being wrong.
                                                                3. After 5 minutes move onto the next table, one person must stay behind to briefly
                                                                   explain what has happened so far, before rejoining their group.
                                                                4. Add ideas to the tablecloth (5 minutes).
                                                                5. After 5 minutes move on to the next tablecloth – leaving a different person behind
                                                                   to recap.
                                                                6. And so on, until everyone has contributed to all of the tablecloth themes.

Everyone around the table is encouraged to contribute to the discussion. As the discussion progresses key points and thoughts can be captured on
the tablecloth using the pens provided. At the end of the session a short discussion can be had on the themes and issues raised.

World Café session helps participants listen together, it contributes towards thinking and helps focus individuals in being able to express their own
ideas. This is a very useful starting point when processing concepts or issues. This is an excellent approach to use with pupils.

    For further details see www.worldcafe.org
THE BOOMTOWN RATS lyrics - I Don't Like Mondays
The silicon chip inside her head
Gets switched to overload.
And nobody's gonna go to school today,
She's going to make them stay at home.
And daddy doesn't understand it,
He always said she was as good as gold.
And he can see no reason
'Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to be shown?

Tell me why?
I don't like Mondays.
Tell me why?
I don't like Mondays.
Tell me why?
I don't like Mondays.
I want to shoot
The whole day down.

The telex machine is kept so clean
As it types to a waiting world.
And mother feels so shocked,
Father's world is rocked,
And their thoughts turn to
Their own little girl.
Sweet 16 ain't so peachy keen,
No, it ain't so neat to admit defeat.
They can see no reasons
'Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to be shown?

Tell me why?
I don't like Mondays.
Tell me why?
I don't like Mondays.
Tell me why?
I don't like Mondays.
I want to shoot
The whole day down.

All the playing's stopped in the playground now
She wants to play with her toys a while.
And school's out early and soon we'll be learning
And the lesson today is how to die.
And then the bullhorn crackles,
And the captain crackles,
With the problems and the how's and why's.
And he can see no reasons
'Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to die?

Tell me why?
I don't like Mondays.
Tell me why?
I don't like Mondays.
Tell me why?
I don't like Mondays.
I want to shoot
The whole day down.
Activity 3
The following are four possible situations that could
arise during a lesson

1. You are teaching the topic on diversity and
identity in a multi ethnic class and a pupil makes
a racist comment in a discussion

2. You are teaching a topic based on crime and
punishment. The subject of capital punishment
arises and the class are uniformly and strongly in

3. The newspaper reveals that a government
minister is homosexual. Subsequently your class
persistently make derogatory and violent
remarks about homosexuals in general.

4. You are discussing trade unions during a topic
on ‘work’ and pupils raise the topic of a recent
teachers’ strike about which the teachers in your
school have been divided. They have expressed
their views and now want to know your views.
Stated Commitment:
In which the teacher always makes known his/her views during discussion
            Potential strengths                       Potential weaknesses

Pupils will try to guess what the teacher thinks         It can stifle classroom discussion, inhibiting pupils
anyway. Stating your own position makes                  from arguing a line against that of the teacher's.
everything above board.
                                                         It may encourage some pupils to argue strongly for
If pupils know where the teacher stands on the           something they don't believe in simply because it's
issue they can discount his or her prejudices and        different from what the teacher thinks.
                                                         Pupils often find it difficult to distinguish facts from
It's better to state your preferences after discussion   values. It's even more difficult if the purveyor of
rather than before.                                      facts and values is the same person, i.e. the
It should only be used if pupils' dissenting opinions
are treated with respect.

It can be an excellent way of maintaining credibility
with pupils since they do not expect us to be

Stated neutrality:
In which the teacher adopts role of an impartial chairperson of a discussion group.
            Potential strengths                           Potential weaknesses

Minimizes undue influence of teacher's own bias.         Pupils find it artificial.

Gives everyone a chance to take part in free             Can damage the rapport between teacher and
discussion.                                              class if it doesn't work.

Provides scope for open-ended discussion, ie the         Depends on pupils being familiar with the method
class may move on to consider issues and                 elsewhere in the school or it will take a long time to
questions the teacher hasn't thought of.                 acclimatize them.

Present a good opportunity for pupils to exercise        May only reinforce pupils' existing attitudes and
communication skills.                                    prejudices.

Works well if you have a lot of background material      Very difficult with the less able.

                                                         The role of neutral chair doesn't suit the teacher's
A Balanced Approach:
In which the teacher presents pupils with a wide range of alternative views.
            Potential strengths                          Potential weaknesses

Essential: I think one of the main functions of a        Is there such a thing as a balanced range of
humanities or social studies teacher is to show that     opinions?
issues are hardly ever black and white.
                                                         As a strategy it has limited use. It avoids the main
Necessary when the class is polarized on an issue.       point of conveying the impression that 'truth' is a
                                                         grey area that exists between two alternative sets
Most useful when dealing with issues about which         of opinions.
there is a great deal of conflicting information.
                                                         Balance means very different things to different
If a balanced range of opinion does not emerge           people. The BBC's view of balance is not mine.
from the group, then it is up to the teacher to see      Teaching is rarely value free.
that the other aspects are brought out.
                                                         This approach can lead to very teacher-directed
                                                         lessons. As with BBC interviews you are always
                                                         chipping in to maintain the so-called balance.

The Devil's Advocate Strategy:
In which the teacher consciously takes up the opposite position to the one expressed by
pupils or in teaching materials.
              Potential strengths                       Potential weaknesses

Frequently used by me. Great fun, and can be             I have run into all sorts of problems with this
very effective in stimulating the pupils to contribute   approach: kids identifying me with the view I was
to discussion.                                           putting forward as devil's advocate; parents
                                                         worried about my alleged views, etc.
Essential when faced by a group who all seem to
share the same opinion.                                  It may reinforce pupils' prejudices.

Most classes which I have taught seem to have a          Only to be used when discussion dries up and
majority line. Then I use this strategy and parody,      there are still 25 minutes left.
exaggeration, and role reversal.

I often use this as a device to liven things up when
the discussion is beginning to dry up.

        Source adapted from 'Towards Umbunto', TIDE~ 2003

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