The Future of Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

Title: Discomforting pedagogies in divided societies: Towards a teacher development model

Joanne Hughes, Queen’s University Belfast (United Kingdom)

Ruth Leitch, Queen’s University Belfast (United Kingdom)


UNESCO proposes dialogue and exchange as key dimensions of transformative education to support the building of peaceful, just, equal, equitable, inclusive, healthy and sustainable futures. In many societies recovering from conflict the focus is on establishing relationships between divided groups through school based contact interventions. Despite the increasing body of evidence on the effectiveness of contact in breaking down barriers, there continues to be concern regarding its limitations. Criticisms highlight that dialogic reference to sensitive and controversial issues relating to group identities is often avoided during contact interventions for fear of exacerbating tensions. Juxtaposed with this,evidence suggests that educators often lack the confidence or capacity to initiate and manage flexible explorations and encounters with difference, and discomforting feelings that intergroup dialogue might entail. Adopting and adapting a framework that draws on Boler’s (1999) ‘pedagogy of discomfort’, Britzman’s  (1998) ‘difficult knowledge’ and Zembylas’ (2005) ‘affect theory’, we propose a model for teacher development as a step towards developing capacity to facilitate difficult and controversial dialogue in the classroom.  The model centralises the teacher’s Self, their beliefs, emotions and behaviours.  It focuses on critical self-reflection, and skills development; it is experiential, dialogical, narrative and arts-based and assumes uncertainty and ambiguity. In this presentation we outline the model framework and reflect on some of the challenges and limitations posed by this approach.


Britzman, D. P. (1998). Lost subjects, contested objects: Toward a psychoanalytic inquiry of learning. New York: State University of New York Press.

Boler, M (1999). Feelingpower: Emotions in education: New York: Routledge

Zembylas, M (2014). Theorizing ‘Difficult Knowledge’ in the aftermath of the ‘affective turn’: Implications for curriculum and pedagogy in handling traumatic representations. Curriculum Inquiry 4 (3).


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