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Learning Democratic Citizenship: An Experiment in Teaching Deliberation

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Abstract:

This paper reports on the final results of a longitudinal study conducted from 2001-2005 on our campus. Responding to the concern that college students, a significant portion of the future political leadership of this country, are largely alienated from traditional political action and institutions, this study sought to explore the process by which such alienation is either fueled or abated during the college years. We were especially interested to know if providing students initially with a useful and civil way to “speak politics”—namely through deliberation—would affect the development of their attitudes about politics and civic engagement. We selected a group of 30 entering first-year students (called Democracy Fellows) and followed them throughout their matriculation at Wake Forest. Not only did they receive first-year seminar instruction in democratic and deliberative theory, they also planned and implemented a campus-wide deliberation in their sophomore year and a community deliberation in their junior year. Interview and survey data was gathered each year to chart the students’ political development. In parallel fashion, data was gathered from a randomly selected cohort group of the same class.. The study reveals that context makes a difference in the effectiveness of deliberation as a tool of civic pedagogy. The classroom, the campus, and the community each offer both advantages and disadvantages as venues for civic education. Exposure to and training in alternative ways of understanding democracy and talking about political issues also had an impact. The central finding is that the Democracy Fellows, who were very like their class cohort at the start of the experiment, were more interested and engaged politically than the cohort group at the conclusion of their time at Wake Forest in these specific ways: they were more involved in traditional political venues, more expressive of the responsibilities of citizenship, more analytical and critical of political processes, more efficacious in their political attitudes and language, more communal in political language and outlook, and more imaginative in recognizing possibilities for deliberation and its broader application. Furthermore, we learned that even limited exposure to deliberation, less frequent and less formal, also accrues at least trace amounts of those same benefits that were prominent within the Democracy Fellows. Finally, we offer some suggestions for how other institutions might use our findings in developing both curricular and extra-curricular programs in civic engagement.

Most Common Document Word Stems:

student (98), polit (79), deliber (70), democraci (55), fellow (47), educ (42), campus (41), communiti (38), group (36), learn (34), issu (34), cohort (28), delib (26), colleg (26), experi (23), year (23), studi (23), civic (23), one (23), democrat (21), engag (20),

Author's Keywords:

civic engagment, deliberation, political communication
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Name: APSA Teaching and Learning Conference
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MLA Citation:

Harriger, Katy. and McMillan, Jill. "Learning Democratic Citizenship: An Experiment in Teaching Deliberation" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the APSA Teaching and Learning Conference, San Jose Marriott, San Jose, California, Feb 22, 2008 <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p245652_index.html>

APA Citation:

Harriger, K. J. and McMillan, J. J. , 2008-02-22 "Learning Democratic Citizenship: An Experiment in Teaching Deliberation" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the APSA Teaching and Learning Conference, San Jose Marriott, San Jose, California Online <PDF>. 2013-12-15 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p245652_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: This paper reports on the final results of a longitudinal study conducted from 2001-2005 on our campus. Responding to the concern that college students, a significant portion of the future political leadership of this country, are largely alienated from traditional political action and institutions, this study sought to explore the process by which such alienation is either fueled or abated during the college years. We were especially interested to know if providing students initially with a useful and civil way to “speak politics”—namely through deliberation—would affect the development of their attitudes about politics and civic engagement. We selected a group of 30 entering first-year students (called Democracy Fellows) and followed them throughout their matriculation at Wake Forest. Not only did they receive first-year seminar instruction in democratic and deliberative theory, they also planned and implemented a campus-wide deliberation in their sophomore year and a community deliberation in their junior year. Interview and survey data was gathered each year to chart the students’ political development. In parallel fashion, data was gathered from a randomly selected cohort group of the same class.. The study reveals that context makes a difference in the effectiveness of deliberation as a tool of civic pedagogy. The classroom, the campus, and the community each offer both advantages and disadvantages as venues for civic education. Exposure to and training in alternative ways of understanding democracy and talking about political issues also had an impact. The central finding is that the Democracy Fellows, who were very like their class cohort at the start of the experiment, were more interested and engaged politically than the cohort group at the conclusion of their time at Wake Forest in these specific ways: they were more involved in traditional political venues, more expressive of the responsibilities of citizenship, more analytical and critical of political processes, more efficacious in their political attitudes and language, more communal in political language and outlook, and more imaginative in recognizing possibilities for deliberation and its broader application. Furthermore, we learned that even limited exposure to deliberation, less frequent and less formal, also accrues at least trace amounts of those same benefits that were prominent within the Democracy Fellows. Finally, we offer some suggestions for how other institutions might use our findings in developing both curricular and extra-curricular programs in civic engagement.

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