Teaching Avatars on Controversial Issues: Lessons Learned

Per-Olof Hansson, Linköping University, Sweden
Marcus Samuelsson, Linköping University, Sweden
Marie-Louise Höög, Linköping University, Sweden
Email: per-olof.hansson@liu.se
Published: August 26, 2023

Citation: Hansson, P.-O., Samuelsson, M., & Höög, M.-L. (2023). Teaching Avatars on Controversial Issues: Lessons Learned. IAFOR Journal of Education11(2). https://doi.org/10.22492/ije.11.2.03


This paper describes and evaluates student teachers’ virtual simulation training on teaching a controversial issue. In the fourth year of their program to become social science teachers at lower and upper secondary schools, 43 student teachers in Sweden conducted simulation teaching on conspiracy theories as an example of a controversial issue. Conspiracy theories appeal to young people and they often encounter these theories online, but they can be met with increased knowledge about how conspiracy theories work, and how they can be identified and countered. Thus, students at primary and secondary school need to develop their critical source skills. The Swedish Schools Inspectorate (2022) found that these issues were not properly taught because they were not connected to schools’ values-based work or to the development of students’ democratic competence. To analyze the simulation teaching, data was collected through observations, video-recorded simulation teaching, interviews with student teachers, and reflective documents. The results show that simulation teaching offers student teachers the opportunity to integrate content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and subject knowledge, by being trained to become flexible and responsive to avatars’ individual differences as well as their different attitudes and understanding of the subject.


conspiracy theories, controversial issues, simulation teaching, student teachers, virtual practice