Resources for Teaching Controversial Issues

The University of Calgary has launched a workshop entitled Teaching Controversial Issues: What, Why and How? to provide faculty with resources and strategies to ensure a safe and respectful learning environment that allows for open debate, respectful dialogue and a diversity of ideas.

The following references and supporting materials have more information and strategies:

Inclusive Practices for Managing Controversial Issues in the Classroom

A tip sheet prepared by Flinders University outlining strategies and tips for managing controversial issues in teaching.

View the tip sheet

Daring to Debate: Strategies for Teaching Controversial Issues in the Classroom

Teachers may shy away from discussing controversial issues in the classroom, because they feel ill-equipped to deal with student reaction or accusations of trying to push a political agenda. This article outlines a number of benefits to students in debating these controversial issues, as well as strategies for respectful and productive discussion.

View the article

Coping with Student Resistance to Critical Thinking: What the Psychotherapy Literature Can Tell Us

This article looks to the psychotherapy literature for insights into the obstacles to critical thinking, and procedures for overcoming students' resistance to developing critical thinking skills. Library login required.

View the article

Myths and Moral Panics: An Active Learning Approach to Controversial Topics

This paper addresses some of the challenges instructors face when teaching controversial issues in criminal justice. The authors discuss how active learning strategies can be used to overcome student hesitation and manage disruption.

Guidelines for Discussion of Racial Conflict and the Language of Hate, Bias, and Discrimination

Guidelines developed by the University of Michigan's Center for Research on Learning and Teaching for classroom discussions on controversial topics. The document makes suggestions on how instructors can plan and facilitate discussions, defuse tensions, and handle emotional student responses.

View the guidelines

Managing Hot Moments in the Classroom

This document describes how to find teaching opportunities in "hot moments" that arise when people's feelings threaten teaching and learning. It offers strategies for classroom discussion and reflection, and tips for instructors to manage their own responses.

View the resource

Teaching Controversial Subjects

A workshop outline, prepared by Yale University, that lays out four different approaches to handling controversial topics in the classroom and five strategies for teaching controversial subjects.


Interested in planning a session for your faculty members? Contact the Office of Diversity, Equity and Protected Disclosure at (403) 220-4439 or to request a session or more information.