Books, Articles, and Studies about Using Controversial Issues to Stimulate Critical Thinking
- "Tutorial C01: What Is Critical Thinking and Why Is It Important?," (122 KB) Jonathan Chan, Critical Thinking Web (accessed Apr. 14, 2016)
An article defining critical thinking and discussing the importance of the skill. Chan states, "Critical thinking is a domain-general skill. The ability to think clearly and rationally is important whatever we choose to do. If you work in education, research, finance, management or the legal profession, then critical thinking is obviously important. But critical thinking skills are not restricted to a particular subject area. Being able to think well and solve problems systematically is an asset for any career."
- "Overcoming Bias to Learn about Controversial Topics," V.G. Vinod Vydiswaran, ChengXiang Zhai, Dan Roth, and Peter Pirolli, Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, Aug. 2015
A study about overcoming confirmation bias and other biases about controversial issues. The study used ProCon.org's Milk and Alternative Energy sites to examine how biases were invoked in readers who were reading about controversial topics. The authors determined that "showing contrasting viewpoints by default helped significantly reduce strong biases in favor of or against topics and helped participants learn about new subtopics in an unbiased fashion."
- "Do Discussion, Debate, and Simulations Boost NAEP Civics Performance?" (380 KB) Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement website, Apr. 2013
A fact sheet examining associations between civics education and students' scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
- The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt, 2012
A discussion of the psychology of morality and the underlying differences in perception between liberals and conservatives.
- "Teaching About Controversial Issues" (50 KB) Andrea Lorek Strauss, National Information and Education Director of the International Wolf Center, and Jen Westlund, Program Director of the International Wolf Center, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency website (accessed June 20, 2012)
An article about how teaching controversial issues benefits students. The article discusses effective teaching techniques for controversial issues, examples of bias, promoting thinking and discussion, and guidelines for resolving conflicts.
- "Groupthink: The Brainstorming Myth" Jonah Lehrer, New Yorker, Jan. 30, 2012
Article argues that debate and critical thinking stimulates creativity far better than brainstorming.
- "The Evidence Base for Social Studies: Controversial Issues" (54 KB) Ohio Department of Education website (accessed Oct. 2, 2009).
A summary of research on the role of controversial issues in student learning and guidelines to help educators in the planning and implementation of instruction on controversial issues.
- "Controversial Issues and Democracy" (10 KB) Barbara Miller, Center for Education in Law and Democracy website (accessed Oct. 2, 2009)
A brief discussion of why controversial issues should be addressed and how to select appropriate and balanced content for discussion.
- "Part 5: Theory into Practice Strategies: Inclusive Practices for Managing Controversial Issues" (70 KB) "Cultural Diversity and Inclusive Practice Toolkit," University of New South Wales website (accessed Feb. 23, 2009)
An outline of a range of strategies for managing controversial issues in the classroom.
- "Energizing Learning: The Instructional Power of Conflict" David W. Johnson, Minnesota University, and Roger T. Johnson, Minnesota University, Educational Researcher, Jan. 2009
An article on the constructive controversy procedure for instigating intellectual conflict among students.
- Controversy in the Classroom: The Democratic Power of Discussion (Critical Social Thought), Diana H. Hess, 2009
An argument for why curricula and teaching based on controversial issues is an important way to build the skills and dispositions that young people will need to live in and improve their communities.
- "Constructive Academic Controversy - What Is It? Why Use It? How to Structure It?" Holly Matusovich, Virginia Tech, and Karl Smith, Purdue University, IEEE Computer Society website, 2009
The paper reviews the development of constructive academic controversy and its benefits and provides instructional references, resources, and case examples in engineering classrooms.
- "Teaching Controversial Subjects" (77 KB) Graduate Teaching Center Workshop, Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Feb. 5, 2008
An outline to help teachers explore concrete strategies for teaching controversial issues by providing them with tools and principles that can be applicable in a wide variety of settings.
- "Teaching Controversial Issues in Schools to Prepare Children for a Sustainable Global Village" (138 KB) P. Reitano, C. Kivunja, and K. Porter, Australian Association for Research Education website, 2008
A study on the various approaches social studies teachers utilize for teaching controversial issues in the classroom and the ways in which controversial issue study prepares students for engaged citizenship.
- "Teaching Controversial Issues...Where Controversial Issues Really Matter" Keith Barton and Alan McCully, Teaching History, June 2007
An article presenting suggestions about how teachers could handle controversial issues in the classroom, based on teaching in Northern Ireland.
- "Cooperative Learning, Responsibility, Ambiguity, Controversy and Support in Motivating Students" Ronald Brecke, Park University, and Jacy Jensen, Park University, InSight, 2007
A study exploring how studying controversial issues in the classroom helps stimulate students and motivate them to take ownership in their own education.
- Encouraging and Supporting Student Inquiry: Researching Controversial Issues (Libraries Unlimited Professional Guides in School Librarianship), Harriet S. Selverstone, 2007
A guide to the processes and policies needed to support and encourage high school students in controversial topic discussion.
- "Ethics in Education" Jeremy Moss, Ethos, Nov. 2006
Case studies involving ethical ideas within everyday situations that provide teachers with a guide to teaching critical thinking in the area of ethics, especially with the use of technology.
- "Framework for Teaching Controversial Issues" (78 KB) Ohio Board of Education, Sep. 2006
Guidelines for preparing to discuss controversial issues in class including maintaining decorum, different roles teachers can play, and meeting academic content standards in a variety of subjects.
- "Teachers' Perceptions of the Role of Evidence in Teaching Controversial Socio-Scientific Issues" Ralph Levinson, The Curriculum Journal, Sep. 2006
Research on the views and approaches of 83 teachers on teaching controversial issues, particularly in biomedicine and biotechnology, to 14-19 year old students.
- "Teaching Controversial Environmental Issues: Neutrality and Balance in the Reality of the Classroom" Deborah R.E. Cotton, Educational Research, June 2006
A study of the beliefs and practices of three geography teachers who teach their students, aged 16-18 years, controversial environmental issues.
- "Controversial Issues: They Belong in the Classroom" (92 KB) Dr. Arnold Burron, Education Policy Center Issue Backgrounder, Independence Institute website, Apr. 2006
An article on the necessity of teaching controversial issues in the classroom and a proposed seven-step analytical process to ensure objectivity and balance.
- "Teaching Controversial Issues" Global Citizenship Guides, Oxfam Development Education Program, 2006
A guide for strategies to help teachers introduce and manage controversial issues in their teaching in order to bring education for global citizenship into the classroom.
- "The Believing Game and How to Make Conflicting Opinions More Fruitful" (117 KB) Peter Elbow, Nurturing the Peacemakers in Our Students: A Guide to Teaching Peace, Empathy, and Understanding, Ed. Chris Weber, 2006
A discussion of the practice of initially believing in opposing ideas, instead of being skeptical and doubting them, in order to better scrutinize arguments for hidden virtues and merits.
- "Teaching Controversial Issues: A Four-step Classroom Strategy for Clear Thinking on Controversial Issues" (482 KB) Pat Clarke, British Columbia Teachers' Federation/Canadian International Development Agency (BCTF/CIDA) Global Classroom Initiative, 2005
An approach to teaching controversial issues with a "de-mystification strategy," giving students a way to make sense of complex and confusing issues.
- "How Do Teachers' Political Views Influence Teaching about Controversial Issues?" Diana E. Hess, Social Education, Jan. 2005
A discussion of the extent to which teachers should disclose their personal views and a description of different approaches to teaching controversial issues, including: denial, avoidance, privilege, and balance.
- Cultivating Judgment: A Sourcebook for Teaching Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum, John Nelson, 2005
A sourcebook providing teachers with 50 classroom-tested activities and assignments that stimulate and develop student critical thinking across the curriculum.
- "Controversial Issues - Teachers' Attitudes and Practices in the Context of Citizenship Education" Christopher Oulton, et al., Oxford Review of Education, Dec. 2004
A paper researching the issue of teachers' use of controversial issues in the classroom and offering support materials to help teachers become more effective at teaching controversial issues.
- "Teaching Controversial Issues" Center for Teaching and Learning, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Sep. 2004
A guide to successfully prepare for, and negotiate discussions of, controversial issues, whether planned or spontaneous, in the classroom.
- "Controversies about Controversial Issues in Democratic Education" Diana E. Hess, PS: Political Science and Politics, Apr. 2004
An article on the benefits of teaching controversial issues in the classroom, an examination of disagreements over what kind of democratic participation should be encouraged in schools, and different ways teachers respond to these challenges.
- Writing Logically, Thinking Critically (6th Edition), Sheila Cooper and Rosemary Patton, 2004
A guide that integrates writing skills and critical thinking to teach students how to construct logical, cohesive arguments and evaluate the arguments of others.
- IssueWeb: A Guide and Sourcebook for Researching Controversial Issues on the Web, Karen R. Diaz and Nancy O'Hanlan, 2004
A sourcebook that provides instruction on researching controversial issues and explains techniques for evaluating Web information sources critically.
- "Advocacy, Critical Thinking, and the Classroom" Fisheries, Sep. 2003
An article on advocacy and critical thinking on controversial natural resource management issues.
- "Enhancing Critical Thinking with Structured Controversial Dialogues" Hanizah Zainuddin, Florida Atlantic University, and Rashid A. Moore, Nova Southeastern University, The Internet TESL Journal, June 2003
An article discussing a "structured controversial dialogue technique" for developing critical thinking in English as a Second Language (ESL) students.
- "Understanding and Developing Controversial Issues in College Courses" Briana K. Payne and Randy R. Gainey, College Teaching, Spring 2003
An article explaining strategies to enhance class discussions using the death penalty, gun control, alternative sanctions, and drug legalization as case studies.
- "Academic Controversy: The Key to Teaching Thinking in the University" Y.K. Ip, National University of Singapore, National University of Singapore website, Feb. 2003
A short article on teaching critical thinking in the university along with a short list of suggested reading.
- "The Impact of Academic Controversy on Subsequent Conflict Resolution and Relationships Among Students" James M. Mitchell, California State University at Hayward, David W. Johnson, University of Minnesota, and Roger T. Johnson, University of Minnesota, Journal of Research in Education, 2003
A study of the effects of teaching academic controversy versus individualistic learning and the ways in which these techniques influence conflict resolution strategies among students.
- "Using Structured Controversy to Teach Diversity Content and Cultural Competence" Sue Steiner, Stephanie Bruzuzy, Karen Gerdes, and Donna Hurdle, Journal of Teaching and Social Work, 2003
A paper discussing the teaching of the structured controversy process and how it is used to teach diversity content in the classroom.
- "Structured Academic Controversies" Laura Maitland, NYS Biology-Chemistry Mentor Network, Apr. 2002
An explanation of how to use a cooperative learning structure to teach about controversial issues with specific examples relating to science courses.
- "Distinguishing Features of Critical Thinking Classrooms" M. Neil Browne, Bowling Green State University, and Kari Freeman, Bowling Green State University, Teaching in Higher Education, 2000
A study on the distinguishing features of classrooms whose students are engaged in critical thinking.
- "Teaching Controversial Issues in Secondary School" (332 KB) Alan Shapiro, ERS Action News, Apr. 1999
A step-by-step guide to leading discussions about controversial issues in secondary schools in a way that promotes an atmosphere that invites students to reflect on their own values.
- "Controversial Issues in the Classroom" (116 KB) Angela M. Harwood and Carole L. Hahn, ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science Education, Bloomington, IN, Sep. 1990
An exploration into the use and importance of classroom discussions as an educational technique in examining controversial issues.
- "Critical Thinking: Promoting It in the Classroom" (57 KB) M. Carrol Tama, ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science Education, Bloomington, IN, June 1989
A study on critical thinking in classrooms including how teaching controversial issues in class helps students confront and resolve the dissonance of conflicting ideas.
- "Classroom Conflict: Controversy Versus Debate in Learning Groups" David W. Johnson, University of Minnesota, and Roger Johnson, University of Minnesota, American Educational Research Journal, June 20, 1985
A study on controversial issue research and debate in the classroom. The results indicated that using pros and cons for classroom debate promotes "the most verbal rehearsal and exchange of the assigned material, the most concern that all students master the assigned material, the most active search for more information about the topic being studied, the most reevaluation of one’s position and the most attitude change" as well as "the most liking for the subject matter."
- "Controversial Issues: Concerns for Policy Makers" (109 KB) Kay K. Cook, ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science Education, Bloomington, IN, June 1984
An article discussing the importance of teaching controversial issues in the classroom and how teachers who teach these issues in public schools can prepare for possible negative community response to the topics they cover.