Teachers' Conceptions of and Lesson Plans for Teaching Controversial Issues: Limitations for Deploying Their Pedagogical Potential

Keywords: controversial issues; Social Studies; teachers; lesson plans


Teaching "controversial issues" has a high pedagogical potential for students to understand the characteristics of social conflicts and to become critical citizens. Twenty Chilean secondary education Social Studies teachers were invited to participate in a group interview and workshop to establish their conceptions of controversial issues and to design lesson plans for teaching such issues. The data showed that although teachers recognise some of the key elements that define these issues and recognise their pedagogical potential, they do not link them with learning the characteristics of social conflict and do not seek to deepen students' understanding of the actors and interests involved in such issues. The data reveal a tension between transmitting to students an interpretation of the traumatic issue in question and creating the conditions for students to analyse the different interpretations that may be in conflict. Therefore, to deploy the pedagogical potential of controversial issues, teachers need to refrain from expressing univocal truths and to question their position as owners and transmitters of knowledge.