CREATING DEMOCRATIC CLASSROOMS TO EDUCATE, VALIDATE, AND EMPOWER STUDENTS THROUGH SUPPORTING TEACHER DEVELOPMENT

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Date
2023-09-12
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Johns Hopkins University
Abstract
African American high school youth experience low civic engagement from limited opportunities to gain civic knowledge, socioeconomic inequalities, and racism in community-level and individual-level civic engagement. For students to advocate to create the society they want to live in, they must have an education that gives them the skills to do so. However, contemporary civics classes focus on understanding how to maintain current societal realities instead of empowering citizens to change their realities. Using the School Citizenship Education Climate Assessment and the Civic Interactions Motivating Diverse Individuals in Classroom Settings, the needs assessment investigated the reciprocal relationship among school climate/culture, teachers, curricula, and student perceptions about civic empowerment at a mid-Atlantic high school. It concluded that this mid-Atlantic high school’s climate and use of civically efficacious classroom practices were minimal, but action-oriented civic participation increased student civic efficacy. The literature highlighted possible ways to support the growth of teachers’ abilities to engage in opportunities to cultivate a more civically empowering school climate. This research hypothesis was that teacher professional development would improve student civic empowerment by growing teachers' action civics pedagogy based on three factors: creating democratic classrooms of empathy and conversation, increasing students’ voices, and developing teacher action civics competencies. Two parts of this professional development intervention included professional learning sessions and professional learning communities. Mikva Challenge organization provided professional development on building community and empathy, having courageous conversations, and amplifying youth voices. The outcomes included increased teacher efficacy in action civics pedagogy and use, increased student civic efficacy, and an improved overall school climate. The intervention concluded that exposing teachers to professional development and using it to support them in crafting classroom lessons and activities benefits students.
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Keywords
Democratic classrooms, teacher development, civic empowerment, professional development, teacher efficacy, student civic efficacy, school climate
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