Teaching controversial issues and developing citizenship among students
The New Zealand Curriculum (2007) puts forward the goal of promoting lifelong learning. A teacher may work as mediator to facilitate this goal by providing students opportunities to explore issues which relate to society and real life experiences. Teaching and discussing controversial issues is an essential element for the development of citizenship education (Misco, 2012). Citizenship education may be defined as teaching students to be critical thinkers, engage and participate in matters concerning society (Chikoko, Gilmour, Harber & Serf, 2011). Simply discussing controversial issues in the classroom we can begin to develop these skills. However ‘what is a controversial issue’ is subject to change largely due to the wider context in which a school may lie (Misco, 2012). Teachers play a crucial role in citizenship education and how controversial issues may be addressed with in the classroom (Moore, 2012). Recent studies have shown teachers understand the importance of teaching controversial issues. Yet, many feel uncomfortable and ill-equipped to effectively address these issues within the classroom (Byford, Lennon & Russell, 2009) resulting in a loss of opportunity to develop citizenship among students (Byford et al 2009).
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