School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Samuel J. Smith


Curriculum and Instruction | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Methods | Educational Psychology


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to understand the phenomenon experienced by faculty members in higher education who teach courses in terrorism studies with curriculum containing controversial and emotive issues in a politically-charged classroom. The study included 12 college faculty members who taught courses in terrorism studies from several institutions of higher learning throughout the United States. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews, participant questionnaires and the collection of course materials. The data collected through these methods were analyzed using the process suggested by Moustakas (1994) to write a composite description of the phenomenon using textural and structural descriptions to develop the culminating aspects of the essence of the experience. The results of this study identified five themes that emerged from the participants’ significant statements. These themes were (a) teacher awareness of the classroom environment and students, (b) teacher perception of academic freedom, (c) teaching styles and adaptations to accommodate controversy, (d) fear of retribution, and (e) benefits of teaching controversial and emotive issues. Recommendations were made to address problems identified in the study. These included a commitment on the part of school administrations to create and maintain an environment of academic freedom, an effort to institute teacher training to develop skills for dealing with controversy and emotion in the classroom, and an effort to institute student education to understand the benefits of having scholarly classroom discussions on subjects that may be controversial and emotive and develop a respect for academic freedom, notwithstanding their personal sensitivities.