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Introduction to the ConCitizen Project

Teaching controversial issues as part of citizenship education is paramount in today’s complex world facing a variety of interconnected global issues, such as widespread inequality, political polarization, humanitarian and refugee crises, fake news and more. The ConCitizen project aims at developing pedagogical strategies and approaches for teaching controversial issues and contested narratives relating to intra-societal conflicts.

The projects’ goal is to strengthen future teachers’ ability to teach controversial issues in societies and classrooms where different narratives are at stake e.g., connected to post-conflict societies or in societies characterized by polarization on several levels.

As conflicts in the surrounding community often manifest in the classroom, the teacher may be in a vulnerable position and in need of new pedagogical strategies to deal with these issues.

A key focus in our approach is to explore the intersection and relation between controversial issues and contested narratives. This approach underlines the impact of context in terms of master and counter narratives and how controversies are contextualised depending on transnational, national, local and classroom contexts.

Main aims

The main aims of the ConCitizen project are:

  1. To strengthen students’ democratic competences and to develop citizenship education through a transnational virtual exchange format and teaching tutorials in different national and democratic contexts and across participating institutions.
  2. To develop new pedagogical models for teaching contested and controversial narratives that will improve students’ ability to think critically, reflect on differences, and contribute to peaceful coexistence.
  3. To combine theoretical perspectives with pedagogical approaches, through an open access textbook, that strengthens student teachers’ and schoolteachers’ ability to facilitate inclusion, dialogue, and mutual understanding in classrooms, when topics are controversial, contested, and/or sensitive to students.

The target group

The main target group are student teachers and NGO youth. To qualify the projects, four student teachers or NGO youth from each country will take part in a co-creative development of pedagogical methodologies through virtual exchanges and face to face meetings.

Direct Beneficiaries:

Twenty BA and MA students in the field of education and NGO youth participating in a virtual exchange course and face to face learning/teaching/training activities, and around eighty student teachers attending a virtual exchange format on controversial issues and contested narratives.

Indirect Beneficiaries:

Other lecturers, student teachers, teachers and trainers using the ConCitizen open-source textbook and the developed teaching resources.

Results

The ConCitizen projects’ results and outcomes all focus on developing innovative teaching material in an iterative process, where every new outcome is based on the previous result:

Result 1

A transnational concept mapping of contested narratives and controversial issues and a curriculum outline on how these issues are included – or not included – in the national curriculum in the context of the five partners involved.

Result 2

A need analysis based on data from survey and focus group interviews with primary and lower secondary teachers in the five partners national context.

Result 3

Teaching tutorials and a podcast which introduce the key concepts and main challenges when teaching contested narratives and controversial issues. In addition, the partners will develop ‘pedagogical reflection models’ aimed at qualifying the teachers’ reflection on contested narratives and controversial issues in the planning, implementation and evaluation of their teaching.

Result 4

A virtual exchange format for virtual exchange with student teachers. The format will include suggestions for individual preparation, introducing contested narratives and controversial issues, and a pedagogical format for how student teachers from different national contexts through virtually exchanges can share experiences and challenges on teaching controversial issues and contested narratives.

Result 5

An open-source textbook will collect and disseminate the findings of the project and will combine theory with practical pedagogical models and examples from different national contexts.

Frame

The project period runs from 1.1.2022-31.12 2024.

Based on a contextual approach every result is planned, produced, and implemented in a trans-national cooperation between the five partners on face-to-face or online transnational meetings. Part of the results are produced in a co-creation process with the target group thought Virtual exchanges and face to face meetings.

The project emphasises transnational exchanges as a resource for the development of new pedagogical methodologies which is implemented though different types of events.

1. Learning/teaching/training activities with the target group:

A. In Northern Ireland: Three school visits in Belfast: exchange on the teaching of controversial issues and contested narratives with teachers and school leaders. Students and lecturers from the partner institution engaged in dialogue and testing of different formats teaching methods for contested narratives and controversial issues in post-conflict and multicultural societies.

B. In Cyprus: Teaching, exchanges and cocreation with student teachers and NGO youth from the five partner institutions – the participants in the Virtual exchange process (result 4). The activities in particular addressed challenges and strategies for teaching controversial issues and contested narratives in different national settings.

C. In Norway: Introducing the textbook and evaluating the outcomes of the collaboration with the participating student teachers and NGO youth.

2. Multiplier events with researchers, schoolteachers, NGO employees and student teachers:

A. In Cyprus: A symposium in Nicosia with roundtable presentation and discussion with researchers in the field. Presentation of more practical approaches from teacher educators and introduction to how three different NGO’s addresses controversial issues and contested narratives in a civil society context.

B. In Norway: A conference in Oslo presenting the project results from ConCitizen and inviting researchers in the field, student teachers, schoolteachers and NGO employees to participate and contribute.

The ConCitizen partners

University College Copenhagen (KP) Lead Institution:

  • Eva Lindhardt, Associate Professor in Religious Studies, Citizenship and Human Rights Education and Danish as a Second Language (Project leader)
  • Andreas Kopp, Associate Professor in History including Intercultural Studies
  • Lakshmi Sigurdsson, Associate Professor in Citizenship, Ethics/Philosophy, Religious Studies and Human Rights Education (Project leader)
  • Britta Kornholt, Associate Professor in Citizenship education, Ethics/Philosophy and Religious Studies and co-developer in the program Playful Learning
  • Gitte Funch Henriksen, Associate professor in History, Pedagogical and Educational Studies and Citizenship Education

Adyan Foundation, Lebanon:

  • Elie Al-Hindy, PhD, Executive Director at Adyan Foundation and Professor of Political Science and International studies at Notre Dame University-Louaize, Lebanon
  • Ziad Fahed, PhD, Director of University Mission Office and Professor of Humanities at Notre Dame University-Louaize, Lebanon
  • Ana Maria Daou, M.A. in Conflict Resolution in Divided Societies and Head of the Research and Courses’ Unit, Adyan Foundation

Open University of Cyprus:

  • Michalinos Zembylas, PhD, Professor of Educational Theory and Curriculum Studies and Honorary Professor at Nelson Mandela University, South Africa, and Adjunct Professor at the University of South Australia
  • Eleni Christodoulou, PhD, Senior Researcher at OUC and a special scientist for teaching and research at the Department of Social and Political Sciences of the University of Cyprus

Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland

  • Tony Gallagher, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Education at School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work and works extensively for the Council of Europe on the civic role of higher education
  • Lesley Emerson, Lecturer at the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work, Deputy Director of Post Graduate Certificate in Education Programme and Deputy Director of the Centre for Children’s Rights
  • Norman Richardson, PhD, Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies, Intercultural Education and Human Rights at Stranmillis University College
  • Gavin Duffy, Lecturer at the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work and the Programme Director of the MSc Educational Leadership pathway

Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway:

  • Nanna Paaske, Associate Professor in History and Head of studies at the Teacher Education of Primary and Lower Secondary School
  • Halldis Breidlid, Professor of Religious Education at the Faculty of Teacher Education and International studies
  • Anja Setterland, PhD, Associate Professor in Social Science (Participated in ConCitizen in 2022)
  • Ana Siri Kvia, currently PhD Student and formerly Assistant Professor in Religions, Ethics, and Worldviews (Participated in ConCitizen in 2022-2023)
  • Tonje Myrebøe, PhD, Associate Professor in Social Science, Identity Studies and Diversity (Joined ConCitizen in 2023)
  • Knut Aukland, PhD, Associate Professor in Religious Education, Worldviews and Ethics (Joined ConCitizen in 2023)