Using Investigation and Discussion to Inquire about Issues in Primary Social Studies, pp. 5 of 15

Johnson and Johnson’s Structured Academic Controversy

The structured academic controversy or SAC was developed by David Johnson and Roger Johnson (1999). They argue that conflict is inevitable in any cooperative effort because of the goal interdependence in the cooperative learning task. Contrary to the common perception that conflicts impede relationship development and work progress, the Johnson brothers believe that conflicts, if properly managed, can bring about benefits in student learning. These benefits include positive interpersonal relationships and psychological health and social competence, all of which are essential ingredients for active citizenry. 

To implement SAC in class, the inquiry focus is an issue with two well documented positions (pros and cons). Resources include the instruction on the SAC steps and the identified interpersonal and discussion skills, descriptions of positions and the resources as supporting evidence. The steps are: a) assign each pair the tasks of learning their positions and the supporting arguments and information, b) assign each pair to learn the relevant information in the provided resources and prepare a presentation with persuasive arguments for the other pair, c) assign pairs to present their positions to one another, d) have students conduct open discussions by exchanging ideas and information freely, e) have pairs reverse their positions and present the opposing position sincerely and forcefully, f) have groups to drop their advocacy and reach a decision by consensus, write a group report that includes joint positions, evidence and rationale, take a test on both positions and do group processing.

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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