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Appendix C

Towards a Research Agenda for Citizenship Education in Canada

Framework for a discussion on an agenda for a national program of work in the field of citizenship education

Alan Sears
University of New Brunswick

March 14, 1998

space.gif (845 bytes)Some time ago Yvonne asked me to develop a framework for our up coming discussions in Calgary. She also asked all of you to send me any suggestions but only one has come in (I suspect your lives are like mine and this sort of thing always gets pushed to the bottom of the pile - particularly at this time of year). Rather than put together something that pretends to be definitive, which is beyond my abilities and expertise, I offer the following as a way to get our discussion started.

space.gif (845 bytes)Before I begin, I would offer a disclaimer and an apology (one can't be too careful). First the disclaimer: My own work has been focused on citizenship education as it is manifested in the public school systems of Canada outside Quebec, particularly as it shows up in social studies curricula. Thanks to my association with Marie McAndrew, Michel Pagé, and Stephane Levesque (now a PhD student at UBC) over the past year or so I have come to know more about the field in Quebec but this is not my area of expertise so I look to others to contribute to this framework from that point of view. Similarly, I know a little about the work of citizenship educators in the broad field of adult education but some of you know much more and I hope you add to this agenda. All of which is to say that what follows reflects my sense of the field and needs to be filled out with your input. Now the apology: I do not write in French and for that I am sorry. I realize we are a bilingual group and wish that I could send this in both languages, perhaps one of you could provide translation.

space.gif (845 bytes)With those considerations in mind, here, in no particular order, are the elements I would like to see on a national research agenda. First the good news. In recent years there has been considerable work in our field. Let me quote from the introduction of a study our group just completed for the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement: "Canada has recently seen a flurry of activity dealing with citizenship and citizenship education. It has come in the form of government sponsored investigations, academic publications and graduate theses, as well as popular books and articles. The Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, for example, has conducted an extensive investigation into the form and substance of Canadian citizenship, producing a report of its own as well as sponsoring a range of related research (Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, 1993; Hughes, 1994), while the federal Department of Canadian Heritage has sponsored several studies (Kaplan, 1991a; Kaplan, 1991b; Kymlicka, 1992; Sears & Hughes, 1994). Graduate students at several Canadian universities have been inspired to devote their dissertations to various aspects of the topic (Joshee, 1995; Orr, 1995; Clark, 1996; Sears, 1996a; Levesque, 1997) and two research groups, one at the University of Montreal and the other at the University of New Brunswick have embarked upon long term research projects directed at educational dimensions of citizenship. Books, such as Kaplan's (1993) Belonging: The Meaning and Nature of Canadian Citizenship and Kymlicka's (1995) Multicultural citizenship are evidence of growing interest among academics in the area of citizenship, as are recently published editions of two national journals on the theme of citizenship education (Canadian and International Education, December, 1996; Canadian Social Studies, Spring, 1997). A special forum on Citizenship: Conceptions, Tensions and Educational Practices was included on the program for the 1997 meeting of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education, attracting university and government researchers from across the country; and there have been several popular books exploring themes related to Canadian citizenship and citizenship education (Bibby, 1990; LaPierre, 1992; Bissoondath, 1994; Resnick, 1994; Gwyn, 1995)."

space.gif (845 bytes)This only reflects some of the work going on across the country. For example, several of us recently participated in the BCTF annual Public Education Conference which was titled "Citizenship Education for Democracy in the 21st Century". I was very impressed that a major teachers' organization would put citizenship education so high on its agenda.

1. Our group includes government, university, professional and community representatives working in various areas of citizenship education - social studies, adult education, language education, immigrant settlement, human rights education and multicultural education just to name some - a key element of our time in Kananaskis must be to inform each other about the work we are currently involved in and explore ways to share data and link projects.

2 . Work needs to be done to explore the implications of recent theoretical work in the area of citizenship for citizenship education. There is a growing body of literature in political science and sociology which explores the difference between nation and state and argues that Canada is a multinational state (in Kymlicka's terms both multinational and polyethnic). Much of this literature advocates moving towards social and institutional structures that better reflect this sense of the country. As citizenship educators we need to think about how this work informs ours and how we educate citizens for a multinational state (or indeed, if we should). As most of you know the Department of Canadian Heritage has recently issued a call for proposals to begin a synthesis of this work to provide background for future policy directions within the Department. This work can provide a framework for critical research which examines the political and social context of citizenship education. As well as coming to terms with how changing notions of state and nation are being played out, we need to understand the impact of globalization (particularly educational agendas being set by organizations like the OECD) on policy and practice in cit ed.

3. Another key connection that needs to be made is between the work of school and community based citizenship educators. We need to recognize that the non-governmental organizations which make up much of civil society are a powerful educative force - particularly in the area of citizenship education. In fact, Ken Osborne, of the University of Manitoba argues they are probably more important in shaping citizens than schools are. They do this in several ways: first, they directly teach some of the basic knowledge of citizenship - both scouts and guides, for example have badge programs which include demonstrating knowledge of the Canadian political system; second, they provide opportunities for members to practice democracy and thereby develop the skills necessary for active democratic citizenship on a broader scale - in the words of one American scholar "they are public laboratories in which citizens learn democracy by doing it." Finally, they help foster a sense of collective responsibility - some notion of the common good if you like. The growing service learning movement in the United States (also in some provinces) is an attempt to link schools and NGOs in the process of citizenship education. There is a wide scope for possible research and development in this area.

4. There has been considerable work completed on official policy and curricula in citizenship education in Canada. We know, however, that school and classroom practice does not often match but we do not know much about what goes on in classrooms in terms of citizenship education. We need both large scale and thick descriptions of what is going on in classrooms with regard to cit ed. Some of the survey work recently completed by the group and the University of Montreal gets at the former and at least one of our number, Jeff Orr, has done some interesting ethnographic work on building community in one elementary classroom. We need more studies of this nature.

5. There is a lot of advocacy literature in our field - citizenship education should look like this - but we know very little about what kids think, how they learn social ideas and concepts and what programs really work. Some of our group have been exploring what children know and feel about human rights, how children understand key concepts of citizenship, and how language and language learning shape identity. We need to share information about these projects and any others, develop links among them and plan for new initiatives to build a body of knowledge that might give some sense of what best practices might be in citizenship education in terms of pedagogy, school structures, curricula and materials.

6. Yvonne suggested the following research: * to examine the relationship between the Canadian benchmarks for second languages and linguistic proficiency required to pass citizenship tests and ceremonies; *to examine the link between linguistic proficiency developed in school systems for immigrants kids (influenced by age of arrival, prior schooling, ...) and the school-based study of citizenship, involving curriculum, pedagogy and classroom interaction; * same question at the adult level; * the relationship, if any, between discourse patterns of educators in the classroom, notions of passive and active citizenship, the program of study and educators' understandings/talk about the curriculum; and * the same sort of question about kids' discourse and understanding of citizenship notions;.

7. We need to be aware of and link to international work in the field. The IEA (without Canada's participation in phase 2), the Council of Europe and UNESCO are just a few of the organizations involved in international research and development projects in citizenship education. Andy Hughes and I went on a two week tour of the U.S. last year sponsored by the U.S. Information Agency and made contact with several American organizations very involved in the "export" of cit ed American style. The international CIVITAS group (more info at gets some support from the USIA. Doug Ramsay, who will be joining us, has worked with this group and can tell us about the conferences and projects it is involved in. The University of Sydney has a new centre for cit ed (homepage: and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation of Japan has just released the final report of the Citizenship Education Policy Study Project "Multidimensional Citizenship: Education Policy for the Twenty-first Century." These are just some of the international projects underway or recently completed and it seems to me we need to explore how we might use them in our own work. That should get the discussion started - jump in.



Alan Sears
Faculty of Education
University of New Brunswick
Fredericton, N.B.
E3B 6E3
Phone (506) 453-5178
Fax (506) 453-3569

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