Teaching & Learning


Preparing to teach difficult and/or sensitive topics in Higher Education, 15 May 2024 (online)

15 May 2024, 10:00 am–11:30 am

Two students sitting with a laptop

Preparing to teach difficult and/or sensitive topics in higher education: theory into practice. The aim of this session is to critically explore theories and frameworks for teaching difficult and/or sensitive topics, so that you will be able to apply these effectively in your own teaching contexts.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to

UCL staff






Eugenics Legacy Education Project, UCL Arena Centre


This event will take place online.
Details and registration will be sent to you.
United Kingdom

Wednesday 15th May 2024, 10:00 - 11:30 (online)

About this session

This session will be delivered by the Eugenics Legacy Education Project (ELEP) team's academic lead, Helen Knowler. We will explore the concept of ‘difficulty’ in education and consider how this can inform decision making about our teaching and learning approaches, choices about curriculum content, and the range of assessment approaches we might take to support learning. Drawing on educational research, we will reflect on the way that approaches to teaching and learning, informed by social justice frameworks, can be effectively differentiated when including difficult and/or sensitive curricular content. 

Using UCL’s historic links to eugenics as an example of working with a ‘difficult’ topic, we will explore key educational theories and tools that will help develop your confidence, prepare for challenges and to develop creative teaching responses that will engage students and develop your own inclusive practices.   

Feedback on the session from a recent participant,

"I thought it was a great mixture of introducing different theoretical frameworks, balanced with real life experiences."

Learning objectives

In the session we aim to:

  • To critically explore educational theories related to teaching difficult and/or sensitive issues and use them to think about rationale for inclusion of teaching such topics. 
  • To consider good practice insights from educational research literature. 
  • To understand the importance of planning and preparation for teaching difficult and/or sensitive topics 


By the end of the session, we encourage you to reflect upon:

  • Your developing understanding and awareness of educational justifications for teaching difficult and/or sensitive topics.  
  • Your ability to use a framework for planning for teaching difficult and/or sensitive topics intentionally and ethically. 
  • Your assessment of your confidence in teaching difficult and/or sensitive topics. 
  • Your ideas for creative and innovative approaches to teaching and learning when teaching with difficult and/or sensitive curriculum material. 


This session does not require specific preparation, but you may have attended our 30 minute taster course on Teaching difficult and/or sensitive topics: Three starting points (or watched a recording of the session). The session assumes some familiarity with theories of learning and theories of inclusive education and experience in module/programme development.  

Further Reading

Pace, J.L. (2019) Contained risk-taking: Preparing preservice teachers to teach controversial issues in three countries, Theory & Research in Social Education, 47:2, 228-260, DOI: 10.1080/00933104.2019.1595240