Teaching urban youth about controversial issues: Pathways to becoming active and informed citizens

Lin, A. R., Lawrence, J. F., & Snow, C. E. (2015).  Teaching urban youth about controversial issues: Pathways to becoming active and informed citizens. Citizenship, Social and Economics Education14(2), 103–119. https://doi.org/10.1177/2047173415600606

https://doi.org/10.1177/2047173415600606

Abstract: Although American schools are required to meet civic education goals of preparing students to become active and informed citizens, high-quality civic opportunities (e.g. service learning and volunteering) are consistently less available to youth of color who are typically enrolled in schools located in high-poverty communities. The purpose of this study is to evaluate efficacy of the Word Generation program to improve students’ self-reported civic engagement (N = 5798) in the context of a randomized trial that was conducted in several middle schools located in a West Coast metropolitan area of the United States. Word Generation is a cross-content literacy program that instructs students to learn academic words, which are embedded in brief passages covering a different controversial issue each week. Participants completed survey items on how often they helped their friends, community, and school, as well as voting interest. Results provide support for the primary research question – participation in the Word Generation program has a significant impact on students’ self-reported civic engagement, but not for voting interest. These results suggest that students’ opportunities to debate on social issues are crucial to envisioning oneself as an active participant in civic affairs.

Funders: This work was supported by Grant Number R305A090555, Word Generation: An Efficacy Trial from the Institute of Educational Sciences, US Department of Education (Catherine Snow, PI). https://ies.ed.gov

Related Links: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00933104.2016.1203852

Related Paper(s): Lin, A.R., Lawrence, J.F., Snow, C.E., & Taylor, K. (2016). Assessing adolescents’ communicative self-efficacy to discuss controversial issues: Findings from a randomized study of the Word Generation program. Theory and Research in Social Education, 44(3), 316-343. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00933104.2016.1203852