Structured Academic Controversy for Upper Secondary Social Studies

This article will describe the use of Structured Academic Controversy (SAC) as a teaching strategy to help a class of Secondary Three Express students in Social Studies analyse issues from multiple perspectives and to strengthen their explanation, questioning and listening skills.

The SAC lesson was implemented in a class of twenty Secondary Three Express students with above average ability who are able to work well together in a group setting. The duration for the SAC lesson was 70 minutes. It was the first time that they had experienced a SAC lesson. Generally, this class possesses good inference skills and are able to critically analyse sources that are provided to them. However, a quarter of the class tends to be soft-spoken and is reluctant to speak up in class. I decided to adopt the SAC as a teaching strategy for this class as I wanted to provide students who are less vocal an opportunity to speak up in a small group setting. At the same time, I wanted to help other students to be more aware of themselves and others in terms of practising their empathetic listening skills when their classmates are presenting. As SAC focuses on student-centred learning, it helps to promote and strengthen cooperative learning in class, which will help students to create new knowledge in the process.

Importance of Getting Students Prepared before SAC

A two period lesson was conducted prior to the SAC lesson to provide students with a better understanding of the challenges that Singapore faced in fostering social cohesion and maintaining harmony as a multi-ethnic society.  Students were directed to engage in self-study using the textbook to find out about the measures that Singapore took to promote social cohesion and maintain harmony. After which, they recorded their key findings into a mind-map. It is essential for students to acquire the pre-requisite knowledge on the controversial issue, apart from their personal experiences, so that they are able to contribute meaningfully and participate in the SAC discussion in a constructive manner.

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An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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