As part of the activities planned in 2021 Peace Education Hub (Faculty of Philosophy, University of Sarajevo) organised a 2.5-hour interactive online workshop Teaching Controversial Issues with Professor Judy Pace on 25 March 2021. The workshop was organised in collaboration with the partner organisation forumZFD and it brought together 18 participants from different countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Switzerland, Great Britain, and Netherlands).

Professor Judy Pace teaches at the University of San Francisco and her research has focused on classroom authority and academic engagement, teaching for democratic citizenship, social studies teaching under high-stakes accountability, and preparation of pre-service teachers for teaching controversial issues. Her latest book Hard Questions: Learning to Teach Controversial Issues was published in 2021 by Rowman & Littlefield.

The workshop addressed the following important questions: What are controversial issues? Why teach controversial issues? Which controversial issues do you think should be taught in your context? Which teaching strategies do you use in class? What are the constraining factors in your contexts?

The exchange of experience and knowledge within a larger group as well as in breakout rooms enabled the participants to approach the issue of teaching controversy as urgent, albeit intimidating, and to foreground its capacity to heal individuals and society as a whole.  

Professor Pace introduced her research and grounded theory of contained risk-taking which is in the focus of her latest book Hard Questions: Learning to Teach Controversial Issues based on her research and observation of pre-service and in-service teachers in Northern Ireland, England and Midwestern US. Her research findings as well as insightful excerpts from the book stimulated the discussion between participants about the challenges of teaching controversial issues in various cultural contexts and the relevance of using multiple perspectives on significant open questions, engaging in dialogic pedagogies and drawing conclusions and self-positioning. This interactive workshop provided the participants with conceptual and practical tools and resources as well as an opportunity to learn from other colleagues and reflect on their own experience and methods of teaching controversial issues.