London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

Education for democratic citizenship as whole-school activity: A case study

Author(s) Tota, P. M.  
Publisher London: CiCe  
Year 2013  
Editor P. Cunningham (ed.) Identities and Citizenship Education: Controversy, crisis and challenges  
Age group -  
This is a theoretical and empirical inquiry on citizenship education as a whole-school activity explored through a case study of an upper secondary school in Denmark. A whole-school approach to citizenship education means involving students in democratic processes at school, rather than teaching citizenship as a solely curricular subject. Focusing on student's learning processes the study aims to examine how students learn the capabilities for citizenship by experiencing democracy at school. In particular the research question addressed by the study was: How are students socialized in a school that practices whole-school citizenship education? Citizenship is conceptualized drawing on theories of educational and political philosophy (e.g., Dewey, Arendt, and Habermas) as an activity taking place in a democratic political space characterized by equality openness, pluralism, deliberation, and decision-making. Based on a literature review, a set of capabilities for citizenship – cognitive, emotional and ethical, and capabilities for action – is identified. The methodology of the research is the ethnographic case study. Qualitative data was collected through a review of official school documents, participant observation, semi-structured interviews with teaching staff and focus groups with students. Participants were ten teachers and twenty students (14 to 19 years old), and data was triangulated across sources and methods. It was found that students' capabilities for citizenship are developed in school spaces that enable them to participate in deliberation and decision-making in the conditions of openness, equality, and pluralism. Findings are contextualized in the broader socio-political context of the Danish education system and reforms. Keywords: Citizenship education, education for democracy, whole-school approach, student participation, empowerment.

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