Introduction

Exploring controversial issues so that students develop a deeper, more critical understanding of the world they live in is an important part of a university course of study.  Exposing students to controversial issues in their studies enables them to develop their capacity for ethical and moral reasoning and become critically reflective thinkers.

However, because issues are controversial they are likely to challenge students' personally held values, beliefs, and world views. This can be very threatening and confusing to students and may also cause some students considerable distress. Therefore when controversial issues are addressed in the classroom students often resist the learning because they feel threatened and/or angry.

The CDIP Toolkit can be used to provoke discussion on cultural diversity and inclusive practice with the objective of providing the campus community to engage deeply in learning and teaching controversial issues. The CDIP Provocateurs project was introduced to support ongoing conversations about cultural diversity and inclusive practice.

 

There are various approaches to inclusive practice and many other resources are available. For example, William Perry (1999) outlined nine stages of development in ethical and moral reasoning in post compulsory education years that  provides a useful framework for considering the type of thinking your students exhibit in your classroom.  Perry argues that students' reasoning develops through the following stages:

  • Dual
    • Perry argued that students often arrive at university exhibiting dualistic thinking.  That is, something is either right or wrong and it is so because authority, namely teachers, parents, experts or leaders, have named it so.  You may find such students pressurise you to give them the answer!
  • Multiplicity
    • In this next stage  there is a recognition of uncertainty.  However, students merely regard this uncertainty as a temporary condition and seek to find the ultimate truth which still must come from those in authority.
  • Relativism
    • Students at this stage tend to value all views equally within the limits of personal standards.  They believe that there is no one true interpretation but still reserve the right to exercise the principle of right and wrong. You will often find students at this stage able to describe in detail different theoretical positions but often unable to take and defend a stance.
  • Commitment
    • Students at this level are able to make a choice about their stance using evidence to defend their opinion.  They are also able to examine the impact and implications of commitments and see them as trade-offs.
  • Limited commitment
    • At this stage students are able to do all of the previous stage but they understand that their own views are part of human growth and in making a commitment to a position in an argument they are able to critically reflect on it and modify it in the light of experience and further evidence.