ERIC Number: ED476340
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2002-Aug
Reference Count: N/A
The Limits of Efficacy: Educating Citizens for a Democratic Society.
Kahne, Joseph; Westheimer, Joel
A growing number of educational programs seek to promote young people's participation in political and civic affairs. A common strategy for doing so is to provide students with opportunities to make a difference in their communities. Much research demonstrates a strong connection between a person's sense about making a difference efficacy and the level of participation. Ten nationally recognized programs that engaged students in community-based experiences and aimed to develop students' civic and political commitments were studied for over two years. By drawing on observations, interviews, and pre/post surveys that focused on changes in attitudes related to civic participation, the study was able to contextualize students' sense of efficacy as civic actors and its relation to program goals. This paper explores two common assumptions about developing a sense of civic and political efficacy: (1) when students' sense of efficacy grows, their commitment to future civic involvement grows as well; and (2) conversely, when students become frustrated or come to believe that problems are intractable, their commitment appears to decline (data supported these suppositions). Evidence presented indicated that complex questions surround the desirability of structuring curriculum to promote students' sense of their political and civic efficacy. The findings indicate that opportunities for civic and political efficacy can support the development of stronger commitments; but opportunities for students to learn about and experience the barriers and constraints they and other civic actors face are also important. The paper suggests ways programs might navigate dilemmas faced by practitioners who seek to structure experiences so students can gain a sense of efficacy on one hand, and an understanding of serious obstacles to democratic social change on the other. (Contains 8 notes, 3 tables, and 28 references.) (Author/BT)
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: Surdna Foundation, Inc., New York, NY.
Authoring Institution: N/A