Learning to teach citizenship: a lifelong learning approach
Myers, John P.
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Where do civics teachers learn about the content and methods of civics education? What is the impact of these learning experiences on their teaching approaches? Driven by these questions, we undertook a study with civics teachers in Ontario, Canada. Whereas citizenship education is often understood as occurring exclusively in formal schooling, and the preparation for teaching civics is usually conceived as occurring in pre-service teacher training, in this study we uncovered civic learning that occurs in nine formal, informal and nonformal settings: early family socialization to primary school, secondary school, pre-service training, other university programs, workshops and conferences, civic participation, the media, and the teaching of civics itself. In relation to the first question, the teachers reported that through a variety of lifelong and lifewide experiences they acquired different amounts and types of learning on civic knowledge, civic values, civic and political skills, political beliefs, and civics teaching. In order to address the second question, we explored the relationship between the civic learning experienced by teachers, on the one hand, and the content and methods of their teaching, on the other. The settings were found to differentially influence the competencies and pedagogical orientations that civics teachers bring to their classrooms. Informal settings, especially the family and civic participation, were particularly important for teaching about the workings of the political process and for modeling practices of political engagement. Even within the same setting, experiences that produced different impacts were identified. For instance, while the impact of the secondary school curriculum was negligible overall, some interviewees recalled one or two high school teachers as role models who would later influence their own teaching approaches. This study found that teachers' learning experiences, particularly those acquired through their own teaching of civics, provide them with competencies and attitudes that influence both their teaching approaches as well as their levels of political enlightenment and engagement.