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PhD candidate: Saskia Arbon, MA

To strengthen democracy, people need to be able to think critically about controversial issues. Critical thinking about controversial issues tends to be sub-optimally integrated in most school subjects. The focus is usually on subject-specific skills and knowledge. However, developing critical thinking about controversial issues also requires more general critical thinking and moral reasoning skills. In cross-curricular approaches, on the other hand, there is little attention for subject-specific aspects. Little is known about more integrative approaches. With this proposal we therefore aim to develop and test an integrative approach towards the teaching of critical thinking about controversial issues. The basis for this integrative approach is Levinson’s (2006) framework for addressing the epistemological and ethical structure of controversy. This framework serves as a point of departure for developing a pedagogy for teaching students what is at stake in certain controversies, by explicating the roles of evidence and values. This approach will be embedded in an existing innovative controversial-issues pedagogy: ‘Science Journalism’.

We propose two interlinked projects, in science and history education in which we develop an instrument to measure students’ understanding of the role of evidence and values in different types of controversies and investigate to what extent secondary students demonstrate this understanding. In addition, we investigate the effects of the integrated approach on students’ understanding of the role of evidence and values in different types of controversies, their critical thinking about specific controversial issues, general critical thinking skills, moral reasoning skills and use of subject-specific knowledge.

Interlinked research project funded by NRO. Senior researchers: Carla van Boxtel, Geerte Savenije, Tessa van Schijndel, Jaap Schuitema. PhD candidates: Saskia Arbon and Stephan Venmans

S. (Saskia) Arbon PhD

PhD candidate

Prof. C.A.M. (Carla) van Boxtel


Dr. T.J.P. (Tessa) van Schijndel


Dr. J.A. (Jaap) Schuitema


Dr. G.M. (Geerte) Savenije