07 SES 11 C, Citizenship and Democratic Education
During the last two decades, the development of citizenship of adolescents has become an educational priority all over Europe resulting in the implementation of obligatory citizenship education curricula (Euridyce,2012). However, the development of citizenship competences does not only happen through formal citizenship curricula or citizenship related teacher practices. Schools are increasingly defined in terms of practice grounds for citizenship of adolescents. Schools as such are important ‘mediating institutions’ in which ideas are formed and challenged and students learn to connect to something larger than themselves (Flanagan,2013). For instance, as environments to learn to form an opinion, partake in a debate, vote in a school election, all the while learning from each other’s’ differences. This gives students the opportunity to not only develop their citizenship competences through explicitly offered practices by the school, but additionally through more implicit experiences within the school context (Lawy & Biesta,2006).In the context of education in general, differences between students are, however, easily framed as something that complicates the teaching and learning process. The reality of increasingly diverse classrooms has created an invitation to researchers and practitioners alike to reflect on the most effective way to deal with these changing teaching environments. As such, differences between students have been studied from an array of perspectives, often related to individuals’ academic capacities with the goal of increasing educational equality and insuring equity of access to high-quality learning (Tomlinson et al.,2003). And while teachers are well aware of the importance to address differences between students in their teaching approach, differences between students in one classroom are often problematized and teachers are often struggling to deal with these differences that complicate (and enrich) their teaching practice (Gable et al.,2000; Subban,2006; Tomlinson,2001).
Nevertheless, through the lens of citizenship education differences between students can be understood in a different way. From the perspective of schools as practice grounds to enact citizenship, especially socio-cultural differences between students can be perceived as a learning opportunity for the group (Gurin et al.,2004). The focus thus shifts from the academic to the socio-cultural and from the individual to the group. Dealing with differences can be understood as one of the main themes within the goals of citizenship education, usually framed within the context of an increasingly diverse society of which we are part (Ten Dam et al.,2011).
This paper aims to understand how schools implicitly contribute to the development of citizenship competences, through the way they deal with student differences: What is the school’s vision on differences? Are there explicit strategies in place? And, how does the practice of differentiation relate to (implicit) citizenship learning?
To understand what kind of practice grounds schools actually are, the school-as-community approach takes into account the broad range of in-school relations, the values underlying the school, and the shared activities that take place within and outside of the school. In particular, we build on the work of Bryk and Driscoll (1988) to come to a generalizable set of comparable structural and organizational school features: the vision on education, the characteristics of in-school relations and the common agenda of activities. Theoretically it is attractive, because it brings where citizenship is practiced (the school) close to where citizenship is practiced for (the larger community and society). But also on empirical grounds the connection between citizenship education and schools as communities is relevant. Research on a sense of community in schools has been effective in explaining differences in academic outcomes, as well as social outcomes, such as problem behaviors (e.g. Battistich & Horn,1997; Bond et al.,2007), however, it has never been explicitly linked to citizenship education.
Methods To answer our research questions we opted for an exploratory qualitative multiple case study approach (Yin, 2003). The multiple case study design is a primary strategy for documenting processes as they unfold and allows to identify regularities between cases, where each case confirms or rejects emerging concepts. Case study research allows us to compare schools, to get an in-depth understanding of different visions on differentiation, differentiation practices and how these relate to the understanding of citizenship of adolescents in general and citizenship education in particular. Sample: In this study we compare schools in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands there is an obligation to invest in citizenship education for all schools for all pupils between four and sixteen years, but what this investment exactly entails can be decided by schools themselves (Bron & Thijs, 2011). This results in many different approaches and interpretations of what citizenship education actually is (Leenders et al., 2008). This makes it especially interesting to see how the understanding of citizenship education translates and relates (in)to different educational practices within the school. We selected six schools based on purposive sampling maximizing difference in student population as well as school type within the Dutch context. Data Collection: Data collection took place from September 2014 until February 2015, and included a combination of semi-structured interviews, observations and document analysis. More specifically, semi-structured interviews were conducted with principals (n=6), team leaders (n=8), janitors (n=6), special needs coordinators (n=6), teachers (n=35), mentors (n=12) as well as two focus groups with six students (14/15yr olds) in each school (n=12). Data analysis: All interviews were audio-taped, transcribed verbatim, and interpretatively coded (Miles & Huberman, 1994). After coding the data, data-analysis progressed in two phases. In the first phase – the within-case analysis (Miles & Huberman, 1994) – the individual school was taken as the unit of analysis. The fixed structure of the resulting individual school reports was the starting point for the second phase in the analysis - the cross-case analysis - where we looked for systematic differences, similarities, patterns and processes across the six cases. The technique of constant comparative analysis – in which preliminary interpretations are continuously compared with the stories of other participants in the case study and the theoretical framework (Strauss & Corbin, 1990) – was used for both the within- and cross-case analysis.
Expected outcomes Schools’ differentiation practices seem to be related to their broader practices in dealing with differences. We have distinguished three strategies through which differences between students were dealt with within the school. 1. Embracing differences (learning from or through) In the first strategy, differences between students are embraced and actively used (n=2 schools). Differences within the study body, especially socio-cultural, but also differences in academic ability and ability related to arts and sports, were seen as a key quality of the school. Differences were described as “part of the school’s genes”. Furthermore, interpersonal learning was understood as a key component of citizenship education. 2. Ignoring differences (learning despite) The second strategy is a so-called colorblind approach (n=2 schools). Differences are ignored and students are treated as much the same as possible. Individual background differences are not deemed a viable basis for differentiation between students. The goal is to treat everybody as equals. The student populations were both ethnic-culturally rather diverse, however students shared comparable socio-economic status and academic level. What both schools share was that interpersonal learning was not understood as an important aspect of citizenship education and citizenship education activities were mostly placed outside of the school for example through service learning. 3. Exotisizing differences (learning about) Finally, in two schools differences were mostly understood as something outside of the school. Both schools shared a rather homogenous population, with predominantly ethnic- Dutch students. In both schools on the level of the teachers there was a certain sadness about the lack of diversity in the student body. However, in teaching practices socio-cultural differences were discussed as something exotic. The results illustrate how citizenship practices should and can be understood within a broader school vision on the goal of education and the responsibility of educators.
Literature Battistich, V., & Hom, A. (1997). The relationship between students' sense of their school as a community and their involvement in problem behaviors. American journal of public health, 87(12), 1997-2001. Bond, L., Butler, H., Thomas, L., Carlin, J., Glover, S., Bowes, G., & Patton, G. (2007). Social and school connectedness in early secondary school as predictors of late teenage substance use, mental health, and academic outcomes. Journal of Adolescent Health, 40(4), 357-e9. Bron, J., & Thijs, A. (2011). Leaving it to the schools: citizenship, diversity and human rights education in the Netherlands. Educational Research, 53(2), 123-136. Bryk, A. S., & Driscoll, M. E. (1988). The High School as Community: Contextual Influences and Consequences for Students and Teachers. Eurydice. 2012. Citizenship Education at School in Europe. Brussels: Eurydice European Unit Flanagan, C. (2003). Developmental roots of political engagement. PS-WASHINGTON-, 36(2), 257-262. Gable, R. A., Hendrickson, J. M., Tonelson, S. W., & Acker, R. V. (2000). Changing disciplinary and instructional practices in the middle school to address IDEA. The Clearing House, 73(4), 205-208. Gurin, P., Nagda, B. R. A., & Lopez, G. E. (2004). The benefits of diversity in education for democratic citizenship. Journal of social issues, 60(1), 17-34. Lawy, R., & Biesta, G. (2006). Citizenship-as-practice: The educational implications of an inclusive and relational understanding of citizenship. British journal of educational studies, 54(1), 34-50. Leenders, H., Veugelers, W., & De Kat, E. (2008). Teachers' views on citizenship education in secondary education in The Netherlands. Cambridge journal of education, 38(2), 155-170. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research (Vol. 15). Newbury Park, Sage Publications. Subban, P. (2006). Differentiated instruction: A research basis. International education journal, 7(7), 935-947. Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. ASCD. Tomlinson, C. A., Brighton, C., Hertberg, H., Callahan, C. M., Moon, T. R., Brimijoin, K., Conover, L.A. & Reynolds, T. (2003). Differentiating instruction in response to student readiness, interest, and learning profile in academically diverse classrooms: A review of literature. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 27(2-3), 119-145. Yin, R. K. (2003). Case study research (Vol. 5). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
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