Discussing Controversial Issues Study Abstract

Two research questions guide our work:

  1. How do high school students experience and learn from participating in social studies courses that emphasize the discussion of controversial international and/or domestic issues?
  2. Do such discussions influence studentsí political and civic participation after they leave high school? If so, what are the pathways to participation?

The study was funded by grants from the McCormick Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), the Choices for the 21st Century Education Program at Brown University, and the Spencer Foundation.

Study Participants Per State (2005 - 2009)

Data collection began in the spring of 2005 and was completed in the spring of 2009. The sample includes 1,001 students in 35 classes in 21 schools in three states (Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin). This is one of the largest democratic education studies in the nation, and the only longitudinal study that includes robust qualitative data from teachers and their students and follow-up data from students after they have left high school. We have administered pre- and post-course questionnaires to 999 students and their teachers. The bulk of other data comes from observing classes and issues forums attended by multiple classes, interviewing teachers about their educational philosophies, and interviewing a large sub-sample of students (n = 226) during the last two weeks of the course. We contracted with the UW Survey Center to conduct two rounds of follow-up telephone interviews. The first was completed in 2007 with 402 participants. The second was completed in 2009 with 369 participants.

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