Two University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have been honored for a study suggesting students learn better when teachers address politically sensitive concepts in class.
Diana Hess (left), education dean at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Paula McAvoy (below), the director of the Center for Ethics and Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are co-winners of the 2017 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education for their 2014 book, The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education.
Hess and McAvoy, (right), conducted a four-year study of the teaching practices of 35 teachers in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. They found that across 21 schools in communities of various political demographics, teachers who openly had class conversations on controversial topics like immigration, gun control, or gay rights had students who were better at critical thinking and problem solving.
“Teachers are beginning to worry that all controversial topics are taboo,” said education award director Marion Hambrick, in a statement. “This timely book dispels that notion and provides tangible evidence that the classroom is an unusual political place where students can learn to carefully examine divisive issues.”
Hess described her work during the Frontiers of Democracy conference in 2015 at Tufts University in Boston:
The award is one of a collection of annual honors for outstanding work in education, psychology, religion, music composition, and ideas for improving world order. The research pair will receive a $100,000 prize and deliver a free lecture on their work next April.
Photos: Diana Hess (top), education dean at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Paula McAvoy (bottom), the director of the Center for Ethics and Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are co-winners of the 2017 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education. Source: University of Louisville
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.