Mirroring the current polarized political climate in America and beyond, ideological debates in instrumental methods often occur absent attention to potential common ground. Using Hess and McAvoy’s (2014) pedagogical principles for engaging students in democratic educational practices as a conceptual framework, the purpose of this exploratory case study was to investigate preservice instrumental music teachers’ (N = 24) experiences during a semester-long constructive controversy project. Researchers analyzed the following data from 13 students: initial and ending journal reflections for all nine controversial topics, final course papers, and two semistructured interviews. The findings indicate that students’ high school experiences played a key role in how students engaged with the controversial topics. Students valued conflict; they not only appreciated hearing about but actively sought out contrasting perspectives. Yet, students did not necessarily value compromise, and these endeavors rarely resulted in individuals substantially changing their beliefs. Participants disagreed about whether the consensus-making process was easy or difficult, and they saw the resultant consensus statements as ranging from syntheses to midpoints. While most students saw listening as key to the constructive controversy process, not all of them felt heard by their classmates.

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