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Apr 19 2009 - 08:52 PM
AERA 2009 — Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Democratic Education

Maximizing the Democratic Potential of Schools as Ideologically Diverse Public Spaces

In this presentation, Hess shared her latest research findings about young people's experience of controversial issue discussion in schools. In a survey of a thousand students, only 31% of the respondents indicated that they talked to people who disagreed with them on public issues. However, even in seemingly homogeneous schools (such as Catholic schools), students and teachers hold diverse perspectives on abortion, death penalty, civil unions, free market system, etc. How teachers in various school contexts create ideological diverse public spaces is the focus of Hess' recent qualitative study.

Schooling's Impacts on the Quantity and Equality of Political Participation

Kahne points out that classroom based civic learning opportunities increase young people's civic and political commitments. Other experiential civic learning opportunities (e.g.service learning, after school activities) increase young people's political knowledge, future participation in political and civic activities, and civic skills. However, there exists a civic opportunity gap: students who are from better social economic backgrounds and have better academic performance have more civic learning opportunities in their schools. It is important for educators and policy makers to address this civic opportunity gap. Fact: Youth (aged 18-29) vote turnout increased from 37% in 1996 to 52% in 2008.

Civic Learning Online: Participatory Media and Changing Citizen Identities

In this presentation, Freelon, one of the authors of Communicating Citizenship Online report, shared their analysis of civic websites. Based on a theoretical framework of dutiful citizenship model (focusing on traditional political activity such as voting) and actualizing citizenship model (favoring loosely network of social actions), they evaluated 90 of the most-trafficked U.S. youth civic websites. Below are the major findings from their report:

“Youth communities that exist only or primarily online are most open to emerging youth civic styles and offer the broadest range of civic learning opportunities. Most conventional civic organizations have not embraced the communication and social networking potential of digital media. These findings have implications both for the capacity of conventional organizations to adapt to online settings, and for how digital technology can be used more effectively in communicating with young citizens.”

This might sound familiar to some of you in the Development & Research team who attended the D&R AERA trial presentations two weeks ago...Yes, part of the theoretical framework and civic website sources in my paper overlapped with this latest report (published Feb. 2009). It is a great learning experience to see how they theorize an evaluation framework for civic websites with a more thorough methodology on a similar research topic. I think other D&R evaluation projects (virtual school, educational blog etc.) can learn from their methodology and analysis as well.
|By: Ching-Fu Lan|4146 Reads