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ERIC Number: EJ834185
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Mar
Pages: 21
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 47
ISSN: ISSN-0013-1881
Active Citizenship: A Preliminary Study into Student Teacher Understandings
Peterson, Andrew; Knowles, Catherine
Educational Research, v51 n1 p39-59 Mar 2009
Background: The last two decades have witnessed an increase in interest in education for citizenship in a number of westernised democracies. In England, citizenship education has been a statutory subject within the secondary National Curriculum since August 2002. As a relatively new subject within the curriculum, practice in citizenship education is in a developmental stage. A number of terms and concepts within citizenship education are therefore being defined and re-defined both through practice and research, including the central concept of "active citizenship." To support the introduction of citizenship education, initial teacher education programmes have been established in a number of higher education institutions across England to train specialist teachers of citizenship education. Research has highlighted the positive contribution that specialist citizenship teachers are playing in establishing and developing citizenship education in schools (OfSTED 2006, "Towards consensus? Citizenship in secondary schools," Report HMI 2666, London: OfSTED; Kerr et al. 2007, Vision versus pragmatism: citizenship in the secondary school curriculum in England, available from, yet little research has been undertaken that explores how these new specialists understand central aspects of the subject. Purpose: The aim of this study was to explore the understandings of "active citizenship" held by student teachers undertaking specialist pre-service Post Graduate Certificates of Education programmes in England. The student teachers were training to teach citizenship education to pupils in the 11-16 or 11-18 age range. In view of the relatively small population from which the sample was drawn, the research was intended as an exploratory study of the present situation, the findings from which can inform further research within the field. Sample: In the final synthesis, the sample comprised 149 student teachers from 12 higher education institutions (HEIs) in England. This represented well over half of the total population of secondary citizenship PGCE students in English HEIs for the academic year in which our data were collected (2006/07) (Training and Development Agency for Schools 2005, "Secondary ITT place allocations for 2006/07 and 2007/08. Annex B," 6; London). Design and methods: A closed response questionnaire was administered to the student teachers. Specific questions were formulated in relation to issues relevant to student teachers' understanding of active citizenship, in terms of its nature and application. A three- and five-point Likert scale was employed as a reliable and effective means of enabling respondents to answer the questions. However, the questionnaire was not intended to establish an overall scale. Because there were multiple questions being investigated within individual questions, with non-random allocation to groups, significance testing was considered inappropriate in this exploratory study. However, as an approximate guide, all associations mentioned in the text produced a significance at the 5% level in the Kruskal-Wallis test, where association is employed as a means of explaining some of the variation between responses to questions. Results: Analysis showed that 47% of student teachers strongly agreed or agreed that "active citizenship is a coherent concept, the meaning of which is shared by citizenship educators", whereas 35% strongly disagreed or disagreed with this statement. Furthermore, there was a clear spread of student teacher responses across the higher education institutions and the reactions to this statement were indicative of an association between response and HEI attended--i.e. student teacher views may have been influenced by the HEI attended. Whether the student teachers did or did not perceive active citizenship to be a coherent concept did not seem to have impacted on nor influenced their responses to the other questions in the questionnaire. Conclusions: Results from this exploratory study suggest that citizenship student teachers perceive active citizenship to play an important part in providing active learning activities for pupils within community, whole-school and classroom settings. However, the research raises a number of questions that deserve the attention of citizenship teacher educators. If "active citizenship" has, indeed, become part of the new vocabulary of citizenship education, then it is essential that the specialists, who will forge the curriculum in our schools, are aware of wider debates and issues surrounding the subject, its role and its meaning. (Contains 1 table, 2 figures and 2 notes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom (England)