Teaching Controversial Issues.... where controversial issues really matter

A.W. McCully, K.C. Barton

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The article draws on a considerable wealth of international scholarship to present some well-founded and practical suggestions about how teachers might handle controversial issues in the classroom. Although the emphasis is on teaching in Northern Ireland, the potential to translate the messages and strategies to other contexts is clear.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalTeaching History
    Issue number127
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007

    Bibliographical note

    Reference text: Parker, W. C. (2003) Teaching Democracy: Unity and Diversity in Public Life, Teachers College Press.
    Hahn, C. L. (1988) Becoming Political: Comparative Perspectives on Citizenship Education, State University of New York Press; Hess, D. E. (2004). ‘Discussion in social studies: Is it worth the trouble?’, Social Education, Vol. 68 no. 2 , pp. 151-155.
    Hess, D. (2002) ‘Discussing controversial public issues in secondary school classrooms: Learning from skilled teachers’, Theory and Research in Social Education, Vol. 30 no. 1, pp. 10-41; ‘Is discussion worth the trouble?’ op cit.
    McCully, A. (2006) ‘Practitioner perceptions of their role in facilitating the handling of controversial issues in contested societies: A Northern Irish experience’, Educational Review, Vol. 58 no. 1, pp. 51-65.
    Lockwood, A. L., & Harris, D. E. (1985) Reasoning with Democratic Values: Ethical Problems in United States History, Instructor’s Manual, Teachers College Press, p. 4.
    McCully, A. & Pilgrim, N. (2004) ‘“They took Ireland away from us and we’ve got to fight to get it back”: Using fictional characters to explore the relationship between historical interpretation and contemporary attitudes’, Teaching History 114, pp. 17-21; McCully, A., Pilgrim, N., Sutherland, A., & McMinn, T. (2002) ‘“Don’t worry, Mr. Trimble, we can handle it”: Balancing the rational and emotional in the teaching of contentious topics’, Teaching History 106, pp. 6-12.
    Hess, D., Ganzler, L., & Posselt, J. (2006) ‘How controversial issues discussions influence civic and political engagement: Findings from Year One’, paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA, April.
    Hess, D. & Ganzler, L. (2007) ‘Patriotism and ideological diversity in the classroom’ in Westheimer, J. (ed) Pledging Allegiance: What Should We Teach Our Children About Patriotism, Teachers College Press.
    Barton, K. & McCully, A. (2005) ‘History, identity, and the school curriculum in Northern Ireland: an empirical study of secondary students’ ideas and perspectives’, Journal of Curriculum Studies, Vol. 37 no. 1, pp. 85-116; Barton, K. & McCully A. (2006) ‘Secondary students perspectives on school and community history in Northern Ireland’, paper presented to the European Social Science History Conference, Amsterdam, March.
    Kitson, A. & McCully, A. (2005) ‘“You hear about it for real in school”: Avoiding, containing and risk-taking in the history classroom’, Teaching History 120, pp. 32-37.
    Lieberman, A. & Grolnick, M. (1996) ‘Networks and reform in American education’, Teachers College Record, Vol. 98 no. 1, pp. 7-45.
    Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (2003). Pathways Towards a More Coherent, Enjoyable, Motivating and Relevant Curriculum for Young People aged 11-14, pp. 67-69.


    • Controversial Issues
    • History Teaching
    • Conflict


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