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Stimulate learning through societal issues  

Societal issues are authentic, collective matters of concern in society. They concern society often in a negative way because they entail complex environmental, social, and economic consequences for society, as such they are often controversial. Societal issues provide an interesting context for developing ESD-competences, in an active, conscious way with others.


Societal issues present us complex and problematic situations. The feeling that we do not have the right knowledge or skills to provide an answer demands that we make a move, by thinking or acting, or both at the same time. An ESD experimental environment, in which this happens, offers opportunities for learning: we learn by going through thinking processes, then through actual action, and finally by reflecting on both. 

This video explores what learning through societal issues means and how you can implement it during your lessons. 

Student goals

Students will learn to: 

  • gain an increased awareness of issues in their close environment, communities and in the world  

  • broaden their understanding of how societal issues impact societal, economic and environmental realms 

  • practice flexible thinking 

  • practice sharing their thinking and carefully listening to the opinions of others 

  • develop an increased tolerance for ambiguity 

Test yourself as a teacher

  • What elements define an issue/problem a societal issue. 

  • How are societal issues “wicked problems”? 

  • In what ways do societal issues make learning relevant for students? 

Reflective questions

  • Which societal issues would you find personally challenging to work on in the classroom and why? 

  • What opportunities and barriers are there for you to use societal issues as a learning context in your classroom? 

  • When thinking about integrating societal issues into your existing curriculum, which areas of the curriculum do you imagine it will be easiest and in which the most challenging? 

Lesson materials and more

Lesmateriale en meer

Get to work in the classroom

While Digital Destiny specifically focuses on the integration of societal issues into the learning environment all of these working methods can be used with any and all topics you are working on with your students. 

The timing of each activity is dependent on many factors: experience, classroom culture, and how you implement it ...

Breaking Down Societal Issues

Silent Conversation

Cheese with Holes

Collecting Societal Issues Survey

More information on

blended learning tools?

Venn Diagram

UN Sustainable Development Goals bingo

Guidelines: How to Guide an investigation of Societal Issues 

Additional information and resources

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