Youth as Citizens: Civic engagement education and democracy

Youth as Citizens: Civic engagement education and democracy


Centre for Research on Educational
and Community Services CRECS’ Ten Minute Window Youth as Citizens: Civic engagement,
education and democracy By Lorna McLean, Hoa Truong-White,
Katrina Isacsson Volume 2, Number 4,
August 2014 Hello I’m Lorna McLean, I’m a
professor in the Faculty of Education at the University
of Ottawa and I will be talking about
a research project that I conducted with two
graduate students who will be speaking
later in the video. The initial planning of the project involved the Faculty of Education and
Elections Canada and encounters with Canada.
Encounters with Canada is Canada’s largest youth leadership and
civic engagement form that’s held here in Ottawa. Our
contribution to the project was to work with 22 teacher ed candidates to work on three
lessons that they presented over 9 weeks to the
participants of election encounters with Canada. In the
end we worked with almost 1,000 participant that
encounters with Canada. There were three research questions
that guided our project. The first one is “What are
youth concerned about?” Second, “How can educators
engage youth to address these concerns in
a democratic society?” and third question is “How did
participating in this project influence teacher candidates
understanding of pedagogy and civic engagement?” As demonstrated in
this demographic image participants who attended encounters
with Canada each week arrive from provinces and territories
across the country with a high attendance rate from BC and Alberta. The participants ranged in age
from 14 to 17 with the majority among the 16 to 17 age
range. With regard to language 30
percent spoke English and 10 percent spoke French. Hoa Truong-White We had a total of
20 to 22 candidates participating in this community
service learning project. They worked collaboratively
in three groups to develop three unique and interactive
service learning modules to present to the encounters
with Canada youth. They presented the module three
times each. After each presentation they received
feedback from the partner organizations in order to improve the module
for the next presentation. After each presentation we invited teacher candidates to
complete an online survey containing Likert scale question and
open-ended reflection questions about their experiences with the project. Our findings from the Likert scale
questions indicated the majority of teacher candidates
felt they had gain practical experience in planning
and teaching civics. The majority of
them also said that they would use these learning modules
again in their future classrooms and about three-quarters of them
expressed that they have become more civically engaged as a result of
participating in this project. When we analyzed the responses to the
big question questions we noticed three themes recurring. First at the beginning of the
project and throughout the project only about a third of the
two candidates felt confident teach civics. By the end of the project
almost all of them said they had gained increased confidence
in a more positive attitude towards teaching civics. Second
about half the teacher candidates expressed that they
were really surprised at how engaged and aware youth already were in social, political and economic
issues and this really challenged their prior
assumptions about youths and youth apathy. And finally the teacher
candidates reported that teaching civics and civics learning
could be meaningful if the activities were relevant and
hands-on provided students in youth with enough
time to debate and discuss the issues that matter to them. After each of the nine
encounters with Canada sessions, the youth participants were asked to
complete a brief paper survey. The survey was really short, it
only had three open-ended and one Likert scale question and we had around a
thousand people turn in their survey at the end of the session so we had a
really good at a pool to work with. One of the survey questions asked
you to list their confidence in discussing issues that concern after having attended the Encounters
Canada session and the vast majority of respondents
indicated that they either agree or somewhat agreed that the
session had made them more comfortable, more confident in addressing these
issues of concern which really speaks to the value of the program and its usefulness
and moving forward. So youth were asked to list key themes that they were concerned
about in their lives and in the world overall. They listed a huge range of
different themes but several key themes were repeated
over and over again. So issues about education came up a lot Youth were concerned about
the cost of University. They were concerned about entrance
exams and how they themselves are going to get into university. The second key theme that emerged a
lot was about the environment so youth were really concerned
about things like global warming. They were concerned about oil production so
whether that be pipelines or fracking. So those were the type of environmental
issues that we saw a lot. We also saw over and over again
issues concerning equality are raised by youth so they were
concerned about gay rights women’s rights. They’re also really
concerned about the right to indigenous people
and how those are respected/ So one of the survey
questions asked youth how “if they were now comfortable to go home
and address the issues that concern” and many of them responded that they
while they really wanted to raise issues they weren’t yet themselves comfortable going home by themselves to raise
issues so they talked a lot about how having more resources would
really help them to to go home and to talk about
these issues that concern. They wanted things like school groups,
community groups to of like-minded people to go
home and talk about issues. What they also really wanted are hard things to take home so whether
that be pamphlets, brochures hard fax they thought would help
them to better raise these issues. At the end of the survey
youth were asked to provide any suggestions or comments
they had for future sessions. There weren’t a lot
of suggestions for improvement but over and over again we
saw that participants were writing that they
didn’t feel that the 90 minutes were as enough time for them to research
discuss and debate their issues. So they really wanted to see more time
allotted and we feel that that really speaks to the validity of the project
that the youth were so engaged that they wanted
to spend more time working on their project. The results of this research speak to three findings
from the study. The first finding is that youth are interested and concerned about
local national and international issues. However they expressed a desire
for greater access to school and community resources
to support them in taking action to address
issues that are important to them. The second finding related to the teacher education candidate’s
experience. Recent research shows that teachers conceptions of citizenship influence their learning goals
pedagogical practices and confidence in teaching citizenship
education. With ongoing support and
feedback from the research team and our partners, the teacher
candidates were able to modify their practices to make the learning
more relevant and engaging for the youth. Overall the researcher achieved
many of the goals that we had set out in the initial research
stage of the project. However there are two aspects of the
project that we’re going to develop further in the second phase. First of all with regard to the
participants from encounters with Canada we learned that they have an interest in
issues but they didn’t always know where to go to find
further information or who to contact so this time round and we’re going to focus on more looking
at legislative and electoral process. The second with regard to the teacher
education candidate we learned that they develop confidence
from participating in the project but one thing we want to investigate
further is how this related to their knowledge
development in terms of the legislative
and electoral process. Thank you for viewing this video and if you have any further comments
please contact me. Thank you. Professor Lorna McLean can be contacted
by email at [email protected] Visit www.crecs.uottawa.ca
for more information.

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