Making Citizens: Transforming Civic Learning for Diverse Social Studies Classrooms

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The formal instruction of civic education in the social studies is part of the larger concept of democratic citizenship education. Civic education i s the embodiment of three integral components: civic knowledge, civic skills, and civic dispositions.

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Civic knowledge is the primary component of civic education, providing students with a working knowledge of the structure and function of government, the law, the nature of politics, the democratic ideals of citizenship, and the foundational history of their country Murphy, Critical thinking, active listening, identifying public problems, organizing groups, lobbying, protesting, and petitioning are just a few examples of civic skills in action CCMS ; Kirlin, ; CIRCLE Staff, to democratic character formation Owen, , p.

Civic dispositions are built upon a foundation of applying their civic knowledge and skills in a democratic, open minded, and civil mann er. Examples of civic dispositions are a respect and adherence to the rule of law, commitment t o justice, equality, and equity reasonable trust in government, civic PAGE 16 16 duty, attentiveness to political matters, political efficacy, personal efficacy, political tolerance, respect for human rights, concern for the welfare of others, rejection of violence, civility, social responsibility, and community connectedness Morgan and Streb, ; Owen, ; Torney Purta, ; Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, Most students today are required only to pass a one semester 12 th grade course in U.

Clearly there is much work to be done in improving civic education for our students. However, civic deficiency is not only limited to students. Although many adu lts may have taken a civics or government course at some point during their schooling the quality of the ir civic education is suspect Butts, For example a survey conducted by the American Bar Association showed that just over half of American adu lts could name the three branches of government Bookman, Doug Dobson, Executive Director of the Lou Frey Institute of Politics and Government at the University of Central Florida Th e purpose of the legislation was to return civics to the Florida curriculum in a systema tic way, in hopes involvement across the state.

What that means, of course, is producing students with the combination of knowledge, skills, and dispositions to be activ e citizens in their communitie s p. The Florida civics legislation : required that the reading portion of language arts curriculum include civics education content for all grade levels; require d that students pass the civics education course for prom otion to high school ; require d the administration of an end of course assessment in civic education; specified requirements for course grad es and course credit; require d the inclusion of civics education end of course assessment EOCA data in determini ng school grades www.

FloridaHouse gov. PAGE 18 18 Although some of these requirement s have been modified since the passage of the original legislation, the essence of it remains the same: a required middle school course and a standardized End Of Course Exam EOCA statewide. With civics now required in all Florida public middle schools it is now considered a critical component of the curriculum.

As a course that is now linked to a high stakes test, the time, focus, and resources for civic s have increased Civics is no longer marginalized as is typical of social studies courses without a linkage to high stakes testing Soder, In other words, c ivics is now tested, so it is now taught. Nonetheless, c reating a civics requirement has presented some challenges for teachers and has raised serious questions for consideration regarding the future of civic education.

However, in Florida not all standards are treated equally Florida Department of Edu cation, Out of the 40 benchmarks in the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, a few are not tested because they are experiential in nature e. With 35 benchmarks to get through by t he administration of the test in May, teachers standards that promote a more well rounded civic education.

Levine also states that merely requiring one civics course or one high stakes test is unlikely to improve civic learning and engagement. Purpose of the Study Understanding the definition of civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions is crucial to understanding how standardized testing can limit aspects of civic education.

Civic knowledge, s kills, and dispositions are the core components of civic education as recommended by the literature and supported and continually researched by two highly respected non School CC MS at the University of Pennsylvania; and CIRCLE or the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University These organizations work in partnership with other prominent entities such as the American Bar Association a nd the Center for Civic Education.

Their scholarly research helps informs policy and practice for civic education, as it focuses primarily on the civic and political engagement of American youth. And of course, civic k nowledge and skills will not compel students to be active and engaged without civic dispositions. A sense of public duty, concern for others, reasonable trust, and societal fairness are all tenets of dispositions for a democratic society CCMS Alt hough the purposes and definitions for civic education may be continually be argued and varied, research has overwhel mingly supported Proven Practices civic education.

The report Guardian of Democracy: The Civic Mission of Schools r ecommends the following essential, proven p ractices to provide students with a high quality civic learning experience : Provide instruction in government, history, law, and democracy. Incorporate discussion of current, local, national, and international iss ues and events in the classroom, particularly those that young people view as important to their lives. Design and implement programs that provide students with the opportunity to apply what they learn through performing community service that is linked to the formal curriculum and classroom instruction.

Offer extracurricular activities that provide opportunities for young people to get involved in their schools or communities. Encourage student participation in school governance. CCMS Proponents of civic education in Florida argue that following these guidelines will help develop Civic education research has c ontinued to rely on, support, and recommend the aforementioned PAGE 21 21 practices regarding civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions Furthermore, it continues to emphasize the role the teacher plays as a civic educator.

Since civics teachers are the ones who are making instructional choices as they make sense of the test it is important to understand how teachers they make their instructional choices R esearch beliefs about best practices and poor practices in civics their sense making of the civics standards and benchmarks, and their sense making of how the EOCA impacts their teaching How do these issues impact their instructional choices?

What do they believe they are emphasizing and deemphasizing in their civics teaching? Wh at do they need as part of their sense making? Hence, my re search questions are as follows : Research Question 1: How do civic instructors make sense of teaching civics under the pressures of high stakes standardized testing? Research Question 2: How does a instructional choices in their classrooms? Conceptual Framework: The Six Proven P ractices Schools have become a weak instrument for measuring and promoting civic health, mainly because the typical public school exp erience fails to engage students in meaningful civic instruction and participation.

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If schools are to truly become laboratories of civic experiences and growth for students, civic educational progress must stem from , p. Providing students with a fully immersive civic experience, as opposed to temporary enrollment in a civics course, is the best way to cultivate new experiences for students while helping to create ca pable, effective citizens inside and outside the PAGE 22 22 public education p.

The task of trying to create a truly immersive and powerful civic experience for P K 12 classroom s is challenging, but manageable. R esearch on civic education has gone in many directions but there seem to be some agreed upon ab solutes regarding high quality civic education. First, t he National Council for the Social Studies is the largest and most prominent association in the country devoted solely to social studies to provide lea dership, service, and support for NCSS seeks to provide frameworks of study to help teachers and researchers to conduct their ongoing work with social studies education.

As part of a position statement released and app roved by the NCSS board in on revitalizing civic learning in schools, the NCSS makes strong recommendations for civic education. Proven Practices and Best Practices Guardian of Democracy: The Civic Mission of School recommend ations for essential practices to provide students with the most holistic civic learning experience possible.

Classroom instruction, discussion of current events and controvers ial issues, service learning, school governance, simulations of democratic process es, and extracurricular activities all c ontribute to an overall high quality experience of civic education according to the CCMS proven p ractices framework. It is important to note that the participants in this study were somewhat familiar with the CCMS Guardian of Democracy Report because they had all attended civics training conducted by the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship that referenced the proven p ractices One of the teachers had been to numerous social studies related ev ents around Florida when the p rove n p ractices were discussed.

I found that the teachers It was never my intent to compare or criticize the teachers based on their use of these practices. For the interviews, I acknowledge that the proven p ractices informed and helped me flesh out some of my interview questions As often happens in qualitative and constructive research, I sometimes strayed from the interview protocol to ref er to the proven p ractices when appropriate. I believe I have done this in a no n judgmental way, sense making narratives.

Method s To best answer these questions, I employed qualitativ e research method s from a constructivist perspective. My choices for research were directly informed by my questions The purpose of qualitative research is to engender greater depth of inquiry in to a particular question Chapter 3 goes into detail about t he qualitative methods that I used for this study.

I recruited three civic educators in the same school district in the state of Florida to share with me their experiences as civic educators. Each of these teachers taught civics every day in a middle school setting to 7 th graders.

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All three participan ts were White female s and had a distinct ive range of teaching experience, from a one year novice to a veteran of almost 30 years Th e participants agreed to meet with me formally for four semi structured interviews over the course of two semesters.

Additionally, I maintained informal communications with each of these participants via e mail, text, phone, and an occasional site visit. P articipants were also asked to share with me their lesson plans over the course of our time together so that I could gain a great sense of detail of their day to day work as civics educator s Significance Overall, the aim of my study is to capture and prov ide insight into the lived experiences of a few civic educators as they teach in an environment of high stakes testing and accountability Understanding how civic educators make sense of teaching civic s in this environment has the potential to illuminate t heir beliefs and challenges as they work to nurture future citizens to better understand the needs of our civic educators and perhaps to provide food for thought about policy considerations for civic educat ion.

Description of Chapters Followin g this introductory chapter, Chapter Two of the dissertation will explore the six proven practices offer a discussion of social studies testing in Florida, and provide a brief narrative of civic education in the 20 th PAGE 25 25 century The chapter will focus on key aspects of civics instruction and how the research has reached a consensus on the general guidelines of their implementation.

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The primary focus of the research centers on four of the six proven practices as teache rs are directly involved with their implementation in their classrooms. The chapter also offers insights into areas of research stagnation and weakness and considerations for the future of civic education research. In addition to reviewing best practices in civic education, a section detailing current trends in high stakes testing and their recorded impact on social studies educators is also provided.

The last section will provide a brief history of civic education situated within the context of contempor ary U. Chapter Three will describe the research procedures and method s used in this study as well as offer detailed accounts of each of the participants and the contexts of their teaching. Analysis and data collection will be discussed in detail throughout this chapter.

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Chapter Four will present my findings from my study, and will expand into several narrative themes from each of my participants. The final chapter offers conclusions and considerations for future civic research and teaching practi ces. The se and other democratic political community was to be the binding element of social cohesion and that this political community was to be based upon liberty, equality, and justice.

And they decided that the most appropriate means of education to achieve and preserve Since the founding era, the institution of public education has undergone vast changes when it comes to purpose and implementation of reforms Thinking abou t how schools can best serve the nation has changed throughout history in response to various political, social, and economic factors At the heart of all educational reforms remains a desire to imbue citizens with specific characteristics to serve the nee ds of the nation at a particular time and in a larger context The mid twentieth century to the present is no exception.

By understanding and analyzing the distinct purposes of PAGE 27 27 education throughout three major periods in the past sixty years, the cultivati on of a specific type of citizen and of civic education become more readily apparent. S u ch events would also impact the nature of civic education and its role in the school curriculum Butts, C oncerns over civic education or lack thereof help to illustrate the societal values of each distinct era. Below, I examine several types of citizens this country has sought to create within the public schools and the roles that the schools have played in civic education over the past seventy years.

Victory over the A xis P owers had created a sense of accomplishment and unity in American society. However, some domestic issues were problematic For example, t he mass ive transformation of youth culture and concerns over juvenile misbehavior and delinquency were pervasive The comprehensive high school received much of the blame, with its critics arguing that the traditional academic disciplines failed to engage youth p roperly and keep them in school Rury, Some educators called for dismantling the PAGE 28 28 traditional academic curriculum in favor of a new life adjustment curriculum for American students.

Such a curriculum was viewed as more relevant, and more likely to combat the high school dropout rate and ameliorate juvenile crime. Objectives of the life adjustment curriculum focused primarily on develop ing life skills everything from recreational leisure skills to maintaining mental and physical health.

From this point of view, education was seen as a public good to benefit the taxpayer and the employer by crea ting economically productive citizens to fill their roles in the workforce and thereby improve the national economy. The life skills adjustment curriculum that dominated much of the s and most of the s aimed to create citizens who were complacent w ith the social order, and to help young people adjust to the status quo. Conformity to the norms of society, not PAGE 29 29 resistance to them characterized education in t his era Tyack, F ocusing on domestic ills after such a triumphant victory in World War I I could create unnecessary tension in society.

Rather than confront such divisive issues as racial inequality, good citizens would ignore such issues through self control. Graebner describes a society focused on social unity and stability, yet it w as clear that conforming to the status quo helped reinforce existing social division s Nonetheless, schools helped to reinforce the view that c itizens needed to ignore social inequalities to ensure the stability of the country According to Tyack and Cuba n , political leaders focused on the acceleration of the Cold War in the s and emphasized the necess ity of citizens domestic uni ty against the growing international threat of communism abroad America needed to appear strong at home.

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Strength th rough unity became a matter of national security, thereby strengthening conservatism and authoritarianism both in side and outside of schools. The U. Burkholder argues that tolerance education following the war took a step in the right direction with its emphasis on constructing rac e as a series of cultural differences and a scientific focus on the human race. However, teachers instead Thus, e nsuring the s tatus quo, rather than critically analyzing it continued to domina te the spirit of conformity that characterized this era.

And as McCarthyism PAGE 30 30 spread in the s, rather than continuing to teach lessons explicitly on race and prejudice to challenge the st atus quo, teachers Gutek, ; Tyack, Eventually the colorblind approach became the norm in the American classroom, with teachers not bringing attention to rac ial conflict but rather focusing on cultural and histo rical contributions of distinct minorities as well as instruction in appropriate behavior toward people of difference Burkholder, However, the colorblind approach toward tolerance education could not work in a country that was beginning to acknow ledg e the issue of racial segregation, largely because of the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown vs.

Board of Education as cited in Tyack, , p.

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According to Butts , civic education during this era emphasized that a good citizen should embrace the core principles of democracy and the values of the free enterpri se system as a response to the threat of communism. Civic education also started to focus on the social aspects of citizenship, calling attention to the problems of democratic living and how citizens could best solve them as contributing member s of society However, Butts argue d that the actual implementation of this type of curriculum in schools Preparing functional citizens for their future roles in the workforce while helping them to understand the basic responsibilities of good citizenship continued to serve as the bedrock for civic education Butts, Such civic education ignored a critical PAGE 31 31 analysis of pressing, divisive issues and embraced so cial unity for the common good of the dominant white society.

Expectations would change as the Cold War continued to escalate with the proliferation of nuclear weapons and in , the launch of the Soviet space satellite Sputnik created a new wave of pa nic and urgency in American society. It appeared that the C ommunists had gained an advantage over America, and this was simply unacceptable. Now, because of a growing international ideological threat that culminated in the scientific achievement of America technological advancement was viewed as the best way to ensure national security and superiority.

Most of the rhetoric around the launch of Sputnik blamed the schools for letting the Soviets win the Cold War and within a few years the life adju stment curriculum vanished as a primary means of education in American society. Th at curriculum was viewed as too soft and incapable of maintain ing a competitive edge over the Soviets.

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