How do I help students have productive discussions about current and controversial issues?
Engaging young people in discussions of local, national, and international issues has long been regarded as a core component of civic learning. When youth engage in discussions of current events and decision-making, they report being more engaged in school. They also report greater interest in politics, improved communication and critical thinking skills, increased civic knowledge, and a higher chance of participating in civic life as adults.
With the rise of the Internet, civic and political dialogue increasingly occurs online. These new opportunities for civic participation are particularly salient for youth, and, yet, they also pose unique challenges. Therefore, supporting youth to engage in productive online civic and political dialogue is increasingly critical. Explore the resources on this page to learn more.
Civic Discussion & Deliberation
Check out the videos below to learn how civic discussion and deliberation can extend and deepen students’ learning and engagement in the classroom.
Leading researchers, district leaders, teachers, and students discuss the importance of high quality civic discussions.
In this video, students deliberate suffrage at age 16 through an approach called Structured Academic Controversy.
Discuss Current & Controversial Issues
Watch the videos below to see how teachers integrate discussion of current and controversial issues into their classrooms.
High school students engage in rigorous debate about privatizing social security.
Middle school students discuss the pros and cons of teen driving.
Build a Class Culture that Supports Discussion
Watch how teachers from a range of subject areas at the Urban Academy in New York City build a respectful classroom culture that promotes discussion.
In this video, teachers discuss how they foster a culture of respect using three guiding principles.
Watch how teachers support all students, including the quieter ones, during discussions.
In the DIALOGUE module, you will find activities, resources, and tools to help youth consider the features of good dialogue and navigate the affordances digital and social media provide for dialogue about civic issues.
Listen to teachers and students talk about the benefits of blogging in the classroom and how it promotes productive online dialogue, provides students with an authentic audience, and develops young people’s civic voice in the video Blogging & Youth Civic Voice from Oakland.
To learn more about HOW to integrate blogging into your classroom, check out these strategies from veteran teachers Jason Muniz, Johanna Paraiso, and Nina Portugal.
- The Political Classroom
- AERA Spencer Lecture 2017 on The Political Classroom
- Talking Across Divides: 10 Ways to Encourage Civil Classroom Conversation On Difficult Issues
- Fostering Dialogue
- Dialogue Toolkit (Project Zero)
- Youth Voices
- Fostering Civil Discourse: A Guide for Classroom Conversations
- Facing History’s Current Events in Your Classroom Resource
- Deliberating in a Democracy
- The Choices Program
Blog Posts & Articles
- Teaching for Civic Engagement: Academic Discussion
- Teaching for Civic Engagement: Individual and Systemic Responsibility
- Politics in the Classroom: How Much Is Too Much?
- Learning from Conflict: Discussing Controversial Issues in the Classroom
- Educating Youth for Online Civic and Political Dialogue
- Getting Into the Fray: Civic Youth, Online Dialogue, and Implications for Digital Literacy Education
- Social media and online communities expose youth to political conversation, but also to incivility and conflict
- The Case for Contentious Curricula