Date of Award

Summer 4-18-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Curriculum & Instruction

First Advisor

Janice R. Archer

Second Advisor

Julia Kirk

Third Advisor

Shannon D. Collins


Sixty percent of college freshmen entering American colleges and universities were unprepared for college level discussion and analytical skills. Though the many researchers I detailed in the literature review showed how effective the use of controversial or difficult topics in the classroom as a means for civil discourse was for imparting the missing skills, they also found teachers largely avoided them. The purpose of this basic interpretive qualitative study was to investigate if pre-service teachers training at public colleges in Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, and North Carolina were given the opportunity to learn the pedagogy of and practice using controversial or difficult topics in the classroom as part of their formal programs and to discover how confident they felt about implementing them in their future classrooms. The four participating colleges of Education, one from each state, were among those which annually graduated the highest number of new teachers in their states. Participants were five teaching faculty members - three from Alabama, one from Kentucky, one from North Carolina, and zero from Tennessee, and 23 pre-service teachers from Tennessee. I collected data through the online platform Qualtrics using questionnaires which included both scaled and open-ended questions. Though the sample was small, my data analysis showed teacher preparation programs did not offer their pre-service teachers this instruction; additionally, pre-service teachers did not feel confident using controversy in the classroom. One implication was pre-service teachers were not receiving the training they needed to teach their future students most effectively. I recommended further study with a larger sample.


controversial topics, difficult topics, civil discourse, teacher preparation, pre-service teachers, classroom discussion