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Teaching Controversial Issues

Research has shown that many of us teach about controversial science on a regular basis, but that few of us have had training or feel well-prepared. How can teachers approach sometimes controversial science issues including evolution and climate change? Should teachers remain neutral? Is it deceitful to pretend to pupils that you don't have an opinion?

The resources below have been made freely available to inform and help teaching and learning of science issues that are perceived as controversial areas in the classroom. 

Teaching Controversial Issues - Professor Justin Dillon

What is a controversial issue? Why should science teachers teach something that’s controversial? How can controversial issues be taught? and what support is available for teachers?

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Ten questions about teaching evolution in the classroom - Dr James Williams

Should you teach evolution? Should you tell students about intelligent design? Isn't it just a theory? James looks at the misconceptions surrounding teaching evolution and ways to deal with tricky questions from students.

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Challenging misconceptions about Climate Change - Dr Jenny Byrne and Prof. Marcus Grace

Find out more about the implications for teaching and learning about climate change by exploring some common misconceptions and myths. What are the challenges in students' understanding of climate change and what opportunities are there to teach about it within the curriculum?

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Controversial issues in primary science - Dr Andri Christodoulou 

How should we approach teaching of controversial issues in primary science? The resource suggests teaching sequences for climate change and looks at challenges.

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Preparing teachers to teach socioscientific issues - the international perspective - Dr Maria Evagorou

What are socioscientific issues and why should you teach about them? Find out more about the teaching sequences available from the PreSEES project.

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About the project

Preparing Science Educators for Everyday Science (PreSEES) is a European Union science education project that involved teacher educators from seven countries including the UK. The focus of the project has been on helping trainee science teachers to become more effective at engaging their students with controversial issues. The project has produced a number of resources which are available for free here. The project partners set out to develop three modules for pre-service teacher training (primary and secondary) to promote the teaching of socio-scientific issues as a means to promote everyday science and other aspects of science  (e.g., argumentation, history of science, nature of science, attitude change, use of technology).

As part of the UK’s contribution to the PreSEES project, the ASE and King’s College London ran a week-long series in October 2014 of free after-school webinars led by acknowledged experts in the field. The presenters have kindly shared their presentations to provide resources for teachers.