Real-World Engagement with Controversial Issues in History and Social Studies: Teaching for Transformative Experiences and Conceptual Change


  • Marc D Alongi Sequoyah School
  • Benjamin C Heddy University of Oklahoma
  • Gale M Sinatra University of Southern California



Controversial issues have been established within the larger framework of civic education as an effective pedagogical approach to developing critical thinking in the classroom, preparing students with intellectual habits necessary for participation in scholarship, civic life and democracy. In this study, we found that a pedagogical intervention, Teaching for Transformative Experience in History, in some cases led to significantly higher engagement with political concepts beyond the classroom, and in other cases, the intervention led to significantly improved conceptual change. The study addresses some of the challenges presented by the research on civic education, providing a potential framework for developing pedagogical practice in history and social studies education that grounds a participatory, meaning-making process in curriculum design and assessment framed by controversial issues.

Author Biographies

Marc D Alongi, Sequoyah School

High School Director

Benjamin C Heddy, University of Oklahoma

Associate Professor

Department of Educational Psychology

Gale M Sinatra, University of Southern California

Professor of Education and Psychology

Rossier School of Education