artwork at Lagan College

Teaching Controversies

Welcome to Judy Pace’s website on Teaching Controversies (supported by the Spencer Foundation). Here you will find research-based tools and guidance for teaching controversial issues.

The banner above is a photo I took of student artwork at Lagan College in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The Need

Teaching controversial issues is urgently needed to cultivate young people’s ability to examine and discuss questions that matter for humanity. But teachers need guidance, tools, and support to do this work. Which issues should we bring into the classroom and what methods should we use? How can we explore controversial issues with students while managing the risks of teaching in an intensely polarized political climate?


One of the peace walls built during the Troubles in Northern Ireland to separate Protestant and Catholic communities.

The Book

Hard Questions: Learning to Teach Controversial Issues is based on a study that investigated how four teacher educators prepared preservice teachers for teaching controversial issues. The book takes us into history, citizenship, and social studies courses in Northern Ireland, England, and the United States and follows how student teachers applied what they learned in different classroom contexts.

Examples of controversial issues include:

  • What should be the boundaries of free speech? 
  • Should the voting age be lowered?
  • What are the best approaches to fighting climate change?
  • Who should be held accountable for genocide?
  • How should we deal with controversial public art?

Website Pages


The Framework page features a research-based framework with a holistic set of strategies and 32 resources to guide teachers in reflective practice.

Hard Questions

The Book page provides information about my book, Hard Questions: Learning to Teach Controversial Issues.


The About page gives a brief overview of my work, links to my research, and contact information.

Design work provided by Studio Mitchell

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