Table of Contents

3.2.2 Structured Academic Controversy for Civic Discourse and the CA CCSS for ELA/Literacy

Research has shown discussing current issues benefits students in other areas. A University of Maryland study showed that students who took part in interactive discussions related to civic education scored highest on 21st century competencies that include working with others, and knowledge of economic and political processes."

Association of California School Administrators, 2013

Guardians of Democracy: The Civic Mission of Schools  by the Leonore Annenberg Institute of Civics of the University of Pennsylvania and the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools (2011) identifies the discussion of current events and controversial issues as the second of their six proven practices that constitute a well-rounded and high-quality civics learning experience for students.

The Structured Academic Controversy (SAC), developed by the Deliberating in a Democracy in the Americas program, develops students’ literacy skills through content and helps all students gain an understanding of issues, weigh evidence, consider multiple perspectives, discuss and communicate ideas, take stances, and draw conclusions based on evidence. These skills correspond to the CA CCSS Reading and Speaking and Listening Standards.

Time to Read

Read more about the SAC strategy that follows and think about how you might use this in your classroom.

Structured Academic Controversy (SAC)

  1. Introduction – Teacher defines deliberation and explains the rules for SAC.
  2. Careful Reading of the Text. Students read to ensure understanding of the documents that address the controversy from multiple perspectives.
  3. Clarification. Students work to clarify any confusion and ensure understanding of the central ideas, claims, and evidence in the text as well as the deliberation question.
  4. Presentation of Positions. Students work in groups of four with half assigned to support and half assigned to oppose the central question. They determine compelling reasons and evidence for their position and present that to the students on the opposing side.
  5. Reversal of Positions. Students reverse positions, find at least one additional compelling reason for their new position and present it to students on the opposing side.
  6. Free Discussion. Students drop their assigned roles and deliberate the question in their small groups. Each student reaches a personal decision based on evidence and logic.
  7. Whole Class Debrief. The teacher leads the whole class in a discussion to gain a deeper understanding of the question, democracy, and deliberation.
  8. Student Reflection. Students complete the reflection form.

Deliberating in a Democracy in the Americas  

Time to View

Watch the Deliberating in a Democracy in the Americas' "Lesson Procedures Video" to see how the SAC process is conducted and how students respond.

Download transcript

The SAC strategy helps students meet the CA Historical and Social Sciences Analysis Skills. Similarly, it can be used to address historical and current controversies throughout the CA History-Social Studies Standards, especially in grade 12. Select the links to reveal example correlated standards.

CA Historical and Social Sciences Analysis Skills Standards, Grades 9–12

CA History-Social Science Standards, Principles of American Democracy, Grade 12

Time to Reflect

Refer to the CA CCSS Speaking and Listening Standards while considering the activities in the "Deliberating in a Democracy" video.



Sample responses

Time to Extend

For more information about how the SAC strategy aligns to the CA CCSS and to see for similarly-correlated writing activities, read "Deliberating in a Democracy in the Americas and Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts." Refer to the Deliberation Lessons for specific materials to implement SAC in the classroom.