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Teachers’ Dealings with Controversial Issues – a typology from the 2009 IEA/ICCS study

Carsten Ljunggren, Ingrid Unemar Öst

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By presenting and analyzing empirical data from the ICCS-study (IEA/ICCS 2009), the overall aim of this article is to discuss controversial issue education and how teachers in Sweden deal with controversies in school settings. The case of Sweden is contextualized by a comparison with findings from some other countries concerning curricula and teachers’ attitudes to controversies. The emphasis in the article, and the specific aim, is to develop and discuss a typology concerning teachers’ dealings with controversial issues in the classroom and its potential consequences for the position of the ‘teacher subject’ which also is supposed to have a decisive impact on students’ opportunities to discuss political and social issues, and to reconsider their arguments and gain new insights about self and society. We find four main discourses in teachers’ dealings with controversial issues which we name ‘the debate leader’, ‘the tutor’, ‘the mediator’ and ‘the rejector’ – discourses that are discussed in relation to epistemological and political definitions of controversial issue education.

Keywords: citizenship education – controversed issue education – discourse theory – IEC-study ICCS 2009 – teacher subject