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Teaching Controversial Topics
Although teachers may be tempted to avoid controversial topics in the classroom, topics such as geologic time, evolution, and climate change are fundamental to our field. In addition, addressing a controversial issue may help students learn skills such as critical thinking. We will explore different approaches for handling controversial topics, as well as successes and challenges in implementing these approaches. Participants will develop plans for handling controversial topics in their classrooms.
- Consider goals and challenges in teaching a controversial topic
- Become familiar with a variety of pedagogical approaches and resources for teaching controversial topics
- Develop a plan for handling this topic in your class(es)
Presentation Slides (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 55.5MB Jul15 15)
Participant Workspace1:30 Welcome and introductions
1:40 Reflecting on "your" controversy
- What controversial topic(s) do you wish to include in your class(es)?
- Why is it controversial? What are the challenges to teaching this topic?
- Why should it be taught?
- What student learning outcomes are associated with teaching this controversial topic?
- What approach is appropriate for your venue: ignoring, addressing, or exploring the controversial aspects?
2:10 Essential components of teaching a controversial topic with sensitivity and integrity
- Building trust in the classroom - attitudes and pedagogies
- Defining what is controversial and dismantling misconceptions
- Building a foundation for the controversial material
- Delivering the controversial material
- Providing opportunities for student reflection and response
- Reinforcing the controversial topic throughout the course
3:00 Resources for addressing the controversial topic
3:15 "Half the fun is to plan the plan"
3:45 Final reflection, sharing of approaches
Teaching Controversial Topics -- Discussion
Here are some resources to use when teaching about modeling:
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Resources on Hydraulic Fracturing:
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