Navigating uncertainty in Australia : fostering informed citizenship through teaching controversial issues with pre-service teachers

Henderson, Deborah J. (2014) Navigating uncertainty in Australia : fostering informed citizenship through teaching controversial issues with pre-service teachers. In Misco, Thomas & De Groof, Jan (Eds.) Cross-Cultural Case Studies of Teaching Controversial Issues : Pathways and Challenges to Democratic Citizenship Education. Wolf Legal Publishers, Tilburg, The Netherlands, pp. 1-16.

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Australia is a multicultural immigrant society created by public policy and direct state action over a period of two hundred years. It is now one of the world’s most diverse societies. However, like many nations, Australia faces challenges to managing ‘unauthorized arrivals’ who claim to be refugees. The issue of how to deal with unauthorized arrivals is controversial and highly emotive as it challenges public policy and government capacity to manage the multicultural ‘mix’ of Australia’s population. It also raises questions about border security. Given that it is impossible to discern beforehand who is a ‘proper’ refugee and who is not, claims to refugee status by unauthorised arrivals in Australia need to be tested against international convention criteria devised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). There are no simple solutions to controversial questions such as how and where should unauthorised arrivals, and the children accompanying them, be housed whilst their claims are investigated? Moreover, as this issue continues to prompt division and heated debate in Australian society, teachers new to the profession are often reluctant to explore it in the classroom. However, there are opportunities in national and state curriculum documents for the values dimensions of curriculum inquiries into controversial issues such as this to be addressed. For example, the most recent national statement on the goals for schooling in Australia, the Melbourne Declaration (MCEETYA, 2008), makes clear that Australian students need to be prepared for the challenges of the 21st century and to develop the capacity for innovation and complex problem-solving. The Melbourne Declaration informs the first national curriculum to be implemented in the Australian states and territories, and all other national and state initiatives. Its focus on developing active and informed citizens who can contribute to a socially cohesive society implies a capacity to deal with a range of issues associated with cultural diversity, This chapter explores the ways in which pre-service and early career teachers in one Australian state reflect upon curriculum opportunities to address controversial issues in the social sciences and history classroom. As part of their pre-service education, all the participants in this study completed a final year social science curriculum method unit that embedded a range of controversial issues, including the placement of children in Australian Immigration Detention Centres (IDCs), for investigation. By drawing from interviews and focus groups conducted with different cohorts of pre-service teachers in their final year of university study and beginning years of teaching, this chapter analyses the range of perceptions about how controversial issues can be examined in the secondary classroom as part of fostering informed citizenship. The discussion and analysis of the qualitative data in this study makes no claims for the representativeness of its findings, rather, a range of beginner teacher insights into a complex and important facet of teaching in a period of change and uncertainty is offered.

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ID Code: 79634
Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional URLs:
Keywords: civics and citizenship, pre-service teacher education, teaching controversial issues, intercultural understanding, immigration detention centres
ISBN: 9789462401891
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > SPECIALIST STUDIES IN EDUCATION (130300) > Teacher Education and Professional Development of Educators (130313)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > SPECIALIST STUDIES IN EDUCATION (130300) > Specialist Studies in Education not elsewhere classified (130399)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Children & Youth Research Centre
Current > Schools > School of Teacher Education & Leadership
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 The authors / Wolf Legal Publishers (WLP)
Copyright Statement: No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of the publisher. Whilst the authors, editors and publisher have tried to ensure the accuracy of this publication, the publisher, authors and editors cannot accept responsibility for any errors, omissions, misstatements, or mistakes and accept no responsibility forthe use of the information presented in this work.
Deposited On: 18 Jan 2015 22:42
Last Modified: 05 Nov 2015 15:15

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