Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Teacher Education and Leadership

Committee Chair(s)

Steven P. Camicia


Steven P. Camicia


Alyson L. Lavigne


Andrea M. Hawkman


Clayton Brown


Ryan Knowles


The state of democracy facing expanding political division and pervasive racial and social inequalities. Discussing and deliberating controversial social and political issues functions help foster students' civic contribution. I conducted a qualitative case study and recruited 14 participants, with whom I conducted interviews, self-reflection, observation, and autoethnography. I targeted the primary research question: How do pre-service elementary teachers experience and get influenced by discussing social and public issues? I broke it down to six operational questions:

  1. What issues are considered controversial by pre-service teachers in their future social studies classrooms?
  2. What challenges do pre-service teachers perceive in controversial issues teaching?
  3. What are pre-service teachers' perceptions of their preparedness for teaching controversies from one to five (e.g., 1 = Not at all)?
  4. How might deliberating controversial issues affect pre-service teachers' civic ideologies?
  5. How might deliberating controversial issues affect their critical consciousness?
  6. What approaches are viewed as the best ways to teach controversial issues?

I utilized a two-fold data analysis, in which I extrapolated individual-level initial codes and inferred common group-level themes. I finalized six sets of themes to answer the research questions accordingly. First, most participants presented inconsistency and confusion over defining controversy. Second, the participants reported five categories of challenges, including fear of retribution. Third, unpreparedness was pervasive due to four reasons such as lack of practice in the elementary classroom. Fourth, the deliberation of controversial issues was perceived to positively affect civic ideology in education. Fifth, I found that deliberation increase one's critical consciousness in five modes such as multiple perspectives and critical thinking skills. Sixth, most of the participants recommended take a stand and SAC (structured academic controversy) activities to address issues of controversy.

I expect its findings to meaningfully extend the scholarship on the discussion and deliberation of social and public issues in social studies teacher education programs. I hope to inspire colleagues to further explore this area of research and provide critical suggestions and ideas to better prepare prospective educators.