Many studies indicate that classroom discussions on citizenship topics play a significant role in citizenship education. These discussions not only influence individual citizenship outcomes and the classroom atmosphere, but also have implications for the democratic fabric of society in a wider societal context. However, training teachers in effectively guiding classroom discussions remains a challenging task, given the considerable variation in approaches to teaching citizenship education.
To address this challenge, Coopmans and Kan recently conducted an exploratory study to investigate pre-vocational teaching strategies to facilitate classroom discussions on citizenship. The authors compared teaching strategies employed by four pre-vocational teachers across three Dutch secondary schools during 26 lessons using the discussion tool “Terre Nova Mini Society” in the 2018/2019 school year. The three schools were selected due to their varying levels of familiarity with citizenship education and citizenship-related classroom discussions. Before teaching the lessons, the four teachers participated in a workshop to familiarize themselves with the lesson method and manual. They were then instructed to freely design their own lessons. Afterward, six researchers observed their lessons.
Based on the field notes from 26 classroom observations and teacher questionnaires, this study analyzed results from case reports, including qualitative and quantitative data. Results indicated that classrooms where teachers and students were less familiar with discussions seemed to benefit from structural aspects of discussions instead of strict content regulation. In contrast, classrooms more familiar with discussions seemed to gain most from reflection on both process and content, and incorporation of real-life consequences or current affairs. Given the teacher’s crucial yet complex role in facilitating classroom discussions conducive to citizenship education, it is a fruitful approach to combine student-regulated content guided by teacher guidance for a discussion’s structure.
Source: Coopmans, M., & Rinnooy Kan, W. F. (2023). Facilitating citizenship-related classroom discussion: Teaching strategies in pre-vocational education that allow for variation in familiarity with discussion. Teaching and Teacher Education, 133, 104268. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2023.104268