Rethinking teacher preparation for teaching controversial topics in a community of inquiry

In Arie Kizel (ed.), Philosophy with children and teacher education: Global perspectives on critical, creative and caring thinking. Abingdon; New York: Routledge. pp. 194-203 (2023)
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Contemporary socio-political issues often seen as socially controversial and highly politicised topics, such as anthropogenic climate change, public scepticism over preventive public health measures during pandemics such as COVID-19, and Indigenous sovereignty, lands rights, and ways of knowing, being and doing, highlight the need for education to address such issues more effectively. Controversial issues do not exist in isolation. They are connected to questions of order, interpretation, meaning-making, ethics, and why and how we live, i.e., to philosophical questions. We argue that philosophical inquiry is essential for dealing with controversial topics in the classroom. However, we point to the need for teachers to understand the role of the community of inquiry in addressing such topics. This has implications for teacher preparation. We, therefore, examine John Dewey’s use of experiential education to argue for rethinking teacher preparation, especially when dealing with controversial topics which point to the need for greater emphasis on how best to engage with them philosophically. To this end, we will argue in favour of a reconstruction of educational philosophy, specifically the community of inquiry, by integrating a Deweyan inspired place-based education that emphasises environment, experience, and social reconstruction learning.



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Simone Thornton
The University of Wollongong
Gilbert Burgh
University of Queensland

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