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Teaching secondary geography
Teaching secondary geography

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4.4 Teaching controversial issues

The Royal Geographical Society, the Geographical Association and NGOs like Oxfam have a range of resources to support the teaching of controversial issues. The next activity will allow you some time to explore some of these.

Activity 11 Exploring support materials related to controversial issues in geography

Timing: Allow about 1 hour 30 minutes

Part 1

Watch Teaching controversial issues [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , a Royal Geographical Society (RGS) webcast for teachers. As you watch, make notes or create a mindmap to outline tips for preparing to teach a controversial issue of your choice. Include your thoughts as to why you need to do the following and how you might do this:

  • a.Provide a safe environment
  • b.Class dynamics
  • c.Research the topic well
  • d.Provide resources that give a balanced view
  • e.Adopt a flexible approach.
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Read the RGS Teacher Notes. On page 2 there is a diagram summarising general tips in relation to the task above. Compare it with your notes or mindmap.

Part 2

Browse other resources for students and teachers.

  • RGS Student Handbook : this has a general introduction to controversial issues, as well as text to support learners in relation to the topics on the last few slides of the online tutorial (conflict, uneven distribution of wealth, consumerism and identity).
  • While much of the RGS website focuses on examples for 11 to 14-year-olds, Andreotti and Warwick (2007) focus on one particular teaching approach in post-16 contexts: Engaging Students with Controversial Issues through a Dialogue based Approach (see under ‘Engaging Post 16 students with controversial issues’).
  • Oxfam resources include:

    a guide for teachers on teaching controversial issues

    resources related to presenting positive images through a range of stimuli

    the more or less equal (MOLE) materials – these explore how inequality and poverty affect the lives of young people in Ethiopia, India, Peru, Viet Nam and the UK. Qualitative and quantitative data and maps are presented. The aims of the MOLE project include the encouragement of critical thinking about issues and values. Review the resources and consider how you might adapt and use them.

Further resources

If you have time, you may like to review these Geographical Association resources and consider how you might adapt and use them.

  • The Geographical Association has a Thinkpiece for mentors and trainee teachers entitled Values and controversial issues.
  • Within the Online CPD section of the website, teaching controversial issues is discussed in the context of many specific topics such as migration.