Controversial Issues in Social Studies Curriculum

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In the article, “Controversial Issues and Democratic Discourse”, Hess (2011) explored the implications of incorporating Controversial Issues (CI) into Social Studies lesson. She included multifarious research findings from studies conducted in Social Studies classrooms in US and delved further to discuss its implications on teachers and students. This review aims to summarize the main research findings and contextualise its implication on the teaching and learning of Social Studies in Singapore. According to studies carried out in US schools, research findings showed that CI discussions were actively carried out in Social Studies classrooms where students claimed to have discussed about their differing opinions on political and social issues as part of adopting an ‘open classroom climate’ and teachers do allocate time for discussion. However, Hess also surfaced contrasting research findings that reported on the lack of inclusion of CI as minimal time is allocated and in some cases, no discussion are carried out at all. An observational study was conducted to explain the disparity of both findings and the problem identified was definitional, in which students are unable to distinguish regular classroom talks about recent events from a proper discussion due to the varied definitions of ‘discussion’. This definitional problem resulted in both teachers and students conflating regular classroom talks with discussions and further study explained that this problem accounted for the initial findings of schools that report the inclusion of CI in their classrooms. CI discussions may pose as a problem in classrooms but it did not hinder teachers from including it in their curriculum. Investigations from studies reported that teachers agree... ... middle of paper ... ...emocratic citizenship: Decision-making in the social studies. NY: Teachers College Press. Hess, D. (2011). Controversial issues and democratic discourse. In L.S Levstik & C.A. Tyson (Eds.). Handbook of Research in Social Studies Education (pp. 124-136). NY: Routledge. Ministry Of Education (2012). Primary School Social Studies Syllabus. Retrieved on February 14, 2014 from Shindler, J. (2008). Chapter 7: Examining Motivational Strategies – What Makes Your Student Care? Retrieved on February 14, 2014 from Traeger, J. (2014). Mayvin: Why facilitate? Retrieved on February 15, 2014 from

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