Pre-service teacher attitudes towards discussing terrorism in English as an Additional Language (EAL) classrooms: citizenship, democratic practices, and the discussion of controversial issues

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This paper reports on interviews exploring pre-service English as an Additional Language (EAL) teacher attitudes towards the inclusion of controversial issues in EAL classrooms. The paper examines how teachers perceive the role of the teacher in fostering EAL students’ democratic understandings, skills, and dispositions, and whether these perceptions lead teachers to consider including controversial topics such as terrorism for discussion in EAL. Pre-service teachers report that they perceive the discussion of controversial topics to be beneficial in both breaking down stereotypes and misrepresentations and in developing students’ knowledge and skills as active citizens, in agreement with a body of international research that recommends the discussion of controversial issues as a fundamental democratic practice. However, analysis suggests that despite this positive attitude towards the discussion of controversial topics, many pre-service teachers often defer the decision to include such topics to external authorities over concerns related to negative professional consequences and sensitivity to student well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-166
Number of pages18
JournalThe Australian Educational Researcher
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Citizenship
  • Controversy
  • Democracy
  • Discussion
  • English as an Additional Language (EAL)
  • Terrorism

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