|Adapted from: Fien, J. (1996) Introduction to Environmental Education,
Teaching for a Sustainable World,
UNESCO- UNEP IEEP and Griffith University, Brisbane, Module 2.
Find someone who:
- has visited a marine reserve, or other undeveloped coastal area in
the last month. Which one?
- knows the name of the national Minister for the Environment. Who?
- is a member of a coast/marine environmental group. Which one?
- works as a volunteer for a coast/marine community group. Which one?
- knows the title of the 1995 report of the state of the marine
environment in Australia. Title?
- has been whale-watching. Where?
- has never driven on the beach in a four-wheel-drive car. Why?
- can name a current controversial issue affecting a coastal or marine
environment. Which one?
- has a boating or navigation certificate. Since when?
- has a swimming Bronze Medalion, first aid certificate or life-saving
- has written a letter to the editor on a coast/marine issue that affects
him/her directly. Which one?
- has spoken or written to an official about a local coast/marine issue.
- can name a local coast/marine issue that affects him/her directly.
- knows where their local waterway enters the sea. Where?
- has a favourite coastal place to go when he/she needs 'regenerating'.
- can name a global coastal or marine problem that affects him/her directly.
Four Stances On Controversial Issues: Teachers'Opinions
|Source: Adapted from Stradling, R., Noctor, M. and Baines, B. (1984)
Teaching Controversial Issues, Edward Arnold Publishers, London,
|The Balanced Approach
The teacher presents students with a wide range of alternative views.
|"Essential: I think one of the main functions of a humanities
or social studies teacher is to show that issues are hardly ever black
"Necessary when a class is polarised on an issue."
"Most useful when dealing with issues about which there is a great
deal of conflicting information."
"If a balanced range of opinions does not emerge from the group,
then it is up to the teacher to see that the other aspects are brought
| "Is there such a thing as a balanced range of opinions?"
"As a strategy it has limited use. It avoids the main point by
conveying the impression that 'truth' is a grey area that exists
between two alternative sets of opinions."
"Balance means very different things to different people. The ABC's
view of balance is not mine. Teaching is rarely value-free."
"This approach can lead to very teacher-directed lessons"
"Like ABC interviews you are always chipping in to maintain the
|The Devil's Advocate Strategy
The teacher consciously takes the opposite position to the one expressed
by students or in teaching materials
|"Great fun, and can be very effective in stimulating
the pupils to contribute to discussion."
"Essential when faced by a group who all seem to share the same
"Most classes which I have taught seem to have a majority line.
Then I use this strategy and parody, exaggeration and role reversal."
"I often use this as a device to liven things up when the discussion
is beginning to dry up."
| "I have run into all sorts of problems with this approach.
Kids identifying me with the views I was putting forward as devil's
advocate; parents worried about my alleged views, etc."
"It may reinforce pupil's prejudices."
"Only to be used when discussion dries up and there are still 25
The teacher always makes known his/her views during discussion
|"Pupils will try to guess what the teacher thinks anyway.
Stating your position makes everything above board."
"If pupils know where the teacher stands on the issue they can
discount his or her prejudices and biases."
"It is better to state your pReferences after discussion rather
"It should only be used if pupils' dissenting opinions are treated
"It can be an excellent way of maintaining credibility with pupils
since they do not expect us to be neutral."
| "It can stifle classroom discussion, inhibiting pupils
from arguing a line against that of the teacher."
"It may encourage some pupils to argue strongly for something they
don't believe in simply because it is different from the teacher."
"Pupils often find it difficult to distinguish facts from values.
It's even more difficult if the purveyor of facts and values is
the same person, ie the teacher."
The teacher adopts the role of an impartial chairperson of a discussion
|"Minimises undue influence of teacher's own bias."
"Gives everyone a chance to take part in free discussion."
"Scope for open-ended discussion, ie the class may move on to consider
issues and questions which the teacher hasn't thought of."
"Presents a good opportunity for pupils to exercise communication
"Works well if you have a lot of background material."
| "Pupils find it artificial."
"Can damage the rapport between teacher and class if it doesn't
"Depends on pupils being familiar with the method elsewhere in
the school or it will take a long time to acclimatise them."
"May only reinforce pupils' existing attitudes and prejudices."
"Very difficult with the less able."
"Neutral chair doesn't suit my personality."
Dealing With Controversial Issues In The Classroom
- Consider your students' developmental needs, including age,
gender, family contexts, reading skills, thinking styles and so on.
- Create a learning environment in which students feel a sense of
investment, ownership and empowerment. Consider how you can give
authority and responsibility to students. Be enthusiastic yourself about
the learning process, the project the students are doing, and life in
general. Encourage an atmosphere of openness, acceptance and respect
by being sensitive to students' needs. Listen to their concerns with
your complete attention. Respect their feelings and, particularly with
young people, err on the side of caution regarding their emotions. Encourage
all students to participate and share their views - but no-one has to
share if he/she would rather not.
- Have well articulated goals and rationales. Encourage parents
and others to voice their questions and concerns. Have a support system
of people such as an administrator, colleagues, interested parents and
- Teach about the complexity of many issues. Do not try to protect
students from it, but recognise the difficulty of such complexity, even
for adults, and that the way we teach needs to be developmentally appropriate.
- Teach multiple perspectives on all topics but be aware that
'balanced' teaching is not possible given the competing and dominant
influences and messages that students are constantly exposed to outside
of the classroom. Instead ensure that 'balanced learning' can take place
by ensuring that the quality of evidence from all viewpoints is as objective
as possible, and that its presentation reflects the aspiration of balanced
- Be honest in your presentation of views. Be aware of your own
feelings and opinions about an issue. Be clear about whether concerns
are your students' or your own. If you decide to express your opinions
on an issue, make it clear to students that this is your personal view
and that it is okay if other people, including them, disagree.
- Let disagreement further the learning process. Allow disagreements
between students to be constructive rather than destructive.
- Encourage students to accept that changing their mind after evaluating
an issue during a discussion is a sign of maturity.
'Whale Bay': Background Information
|Source: Adapted from Oliver, J. (1992) Whale Bay: A Simulation Game,
in B. Moffatt, Marine Studies, Wet Paper, Ashmore, pp. 586-598.
Whale-Bay occupies the area between a large island, Wallaby Island, and
the mainland somewhere in Australia. On one side, its mangroves and wetlands
fill most of the channel, and some of these are Fish Habitat Reserves
where fishing is prohibited, but some bait collecting occurs along the
mud. The eastern side is open to the ocean, and has deep clear water.
Close to the western shore grow hectares of seagrass, which support nearly
1000 dugong, the marine sea cow. Several species of turtle live and
feed in the Bay and some nest on the sandy shores to the north. Wrecks
of a few nineteenth century ships sailing too close to some of the rocky
shores lie on the sea bed. These provide fascinating dive spots and coral
reefs with soft corals, feather stars, numerous molluscs, worms and fish.
The Bay is considered to be one of the best dive sites in the state. It
also supports twenty trawlers and an active recreational fishery. The
fish are off loaded at the fishworks in the small township of Whale Bay
on the western shore and some are frozen for the capital city markets.
The Bay's newest arrivals are the Humpback Whales who have been moving
into the Bay to rest en route between their summer feeding grounds
in the Antarctic and their winter breeding grounds in the waters of north-eastern
and north-western Australia. Whales are seen in the Bay from late May
to June and on the return journey between August and October. Many can
weigh up to 40 tonnes and measure up to 15 metres long. On the
return journey from the warm waters, most of the females are accompanied
by their calves born up north. Thousands of visitors crowd into charter
boats to visit the Bay in the hope of seeing the whales swimming close
to the surface or diving or leaping out of the water ('breaching'). The
whales only feed in the Antarctic Ocean and consume enormous quantities
of krill (tiny crustaceans).
Whale scientists and conservationists are getting alarmed that the great
mammals will become pressured by the increasing numbers of whalewatchers
now crowding into Whale Bay. The whales may then move away from the Bay
altogether. There has to be a reasonable management approach so that tour
operators and visitors can still use the resource, but that at the same
time, the whales will not be hindered in Whale Bay. Regulations are already
in place and state that boats may not approach closer than 100 metres
from whales, and boats should not break up groups or separate mothers
and calves. Swimmers and divers are not to be closer than 30 metres.
Rubbish or plastic may not be thrown into the water. The preservation
of clean water in the Bay is also important for the whales' survival.
Role Cards For 'Whale Bay'
|Source: Adapted from Oliver, J. (1992) Whale Bay: A Simulation Game,
in B. Moffatt, Marine Studies, Wet Paper, Ashmore, pp. 590-596.
| 1. Chairperson
Your role is to chair the public meeting and to keep order so that
everyone who is supposed to speak gets a chance to do so. You can
draw up a time table. You will need to gather information about
each of the groups and individuals so that you have some idea of
how people are thinking. You have to sum up and supervise the voting
at the end of the meeting. You are the Shire President so you are
used to being in charge and are good at keeping control. You know
this is an important occasion so you should wear formal clothes.
| 2. Tour Boat Operator
You own a large fast boat Star Trek 4 and take groups of
tourists out to see the whales during their northern and southern
migrations. You like to get your boat as close as regulations permit.
You have been making a lot of money lately and want to see your
business thrive, so you do not want any controls which would prevent
you taking your boat out into the whole Bay. However, your livelihood
depends on whales so you want their areas protected, so long as
you can get into them!
| 3. Commercial Fishing Organisation Officer
You spend your time talking about fishing, and want to see commercial
fishing people with good access to their traditional fishing grounds.
You have accepted that you need to talk with conservationists but
think everyone is pushing 'nature' too much. You have already agreed
to the regulations controlling the size of nets, where these can
be placed, and where trawlers can go. You are not prepared to see
most of the Bay made into a restricted area.
| 4. Professional Trawler Operator
You own the Whatsit, a trawler operating in Whale Bay. You
are sick of being told what to do: you have had to change the size
of your nets and where you place them, and are worried that restrictions
are going to be placed so that you can only fish five kilometres
offshore. You want a one kilometre off-shore fishing limit as that
is where most fish are. You are sorry that dugongs and turtles get
tangled in your nets, but if lines and ropes and plastic bait bags
fall overboard, well, that's life and you have to make a living.
| 5. Traditional Aboriginal Elder
You are a local Aboriginal Elder. The sea and land traditionally
belong to you and your clan and you believe that you have a right
to be involved at the decision-making level rather than being consulted
along with the others as just another interested party. You are
concerned about the area and do not want more development to go
ahead as it may impact upon the cultural areas of significance for
your clan. You think that the motion is too narrow.
| 6. Local Aboriginal Women
You are one of the local Aboriginal women in the area who practise
traditional fishing in the mangrove creek for food for your family.
You want to maintain your privacy and solitude and you especially
do not want to see the area over-fished or netting occurring in
the mangrove estuary. You do not mind other fishers accessing the
area and think the motion will be helpful.
| 7. Department of Environment Officer
You represent the Minister for the Environment and have to wait
to see how people react to the motion. The ideas in the motion were
originally put forward by you so you know a lot about it and try
to persuade everyone to agree with it
| 8. Tourist Developer
You own a lot of land around the shore, and want to see tourism
expand. You spent a lot of time in the United States looking at
hotels, motels and marinas and are keen to see a 'Whaler Wharf',
more shops, more boats and more activity in Whale Bay. You know
that the whales have to be protected as they are the draw card for
tourists but, after all, everyone has to make money.
| 9. Whale Conservation Society
You are the representative of the organisation which specialises
in whale watching, conservation and providing information to the
public. You have travelled all over the world looking at whales
and are very knowledgeable about them. Nothing should happen to
these Humpbacks who are only just increasing in numbers after years
of whaling operations. You would like the whole Bay as a Marine
Park with no zones for fishing or entry, and you would really like
all boats to be kept away if possible too.
| 10. National Parks and Wildlife Officer
You have been at the Bay for two years and spend most of your time
keeping tour boats away from whales, supervising the rescue of injured
animals caught in plastic, and in reporting pollution to your office.
You think fishing needs to be kept well away from the marine life,
and don't want any more tourists. You feel the mangroves, of which
there are extensive stands (mainly Avicennia marina and the
rarer myrtle mangrove, Osborna octodonta) need to be protected
as they provide valuable fish breeding habitats.
| 11. Shire Town Planner
You are the local planner from the Shire Council at Whale Bay and
are a bit confused as to what the best thing would be. You are knowledgeable
about land use, but you don't know much about water in the Bay except
that it is 'salt'. You have never been in a boat, and are frightened
of whales, turtles and anything that is connected with the sea.
You are happy to see the Shire go ahead so do not mind tourists,
developers etc., so long as they follow the rules.
| 12. Scientists - Dugong Expert
You are a well known Australian expert on dugongs and have just
completed your PhD on these mammals. You know lots about their food,
sea grasses, and know that the sea grass beds are only found on
the northern side of the Bay close inshore. Whale Bay is one of
the very few sites of one of the sea grasses (Halophila ovalis)
in the State. You think there are insufficient Fish Reserves in
the area and you are aware that fishing people from outside the
Bay tend to take far less care than the fishing boats in Whale Bay
itself. You like whales too but think that dugongs deserve more
Claimed Advantages of Role Play
||To what extent was this advantage reflected in the 'Whale Bay' role
|Role play can simplify or simulate complex real-life situations
|Role plays 'collapse' time and enable lengthy processes to be studied
in a relatively short time frame.
|Role plays emphasise decision-making processes rather than abstract
|Role plays can develop critical thinking skills for analysing data
|Role plays can develop decision-making and problem solving skills.
|Role plays can encourage students to recognise the multiplicity
of values and positions on an issue.
|Role plays can help students clarify their own values and attitudes
towards an issue.
|Role plays can help students empathise with the values and attitudes
of other people.