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Citizenship education in American schools and its role in developing civic engagement: a review of the research

Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

Few studies provide an overview of citizenship education from the primary to secondary grade levels in American schools. Citizenship education consists of specific teaching practices designed to encourage students to become more involved in their communities. This review critically evaluates three kinds of programmes related to citizenship education: (1) character education programmes, (2) political simulations and, (3) service-learning programmes. Students in the primary grades are mainly exposed to character education programmes, which emphasise the importance of developing ethical values. Political simulations are more common in high school civic courses, where students learn the importance of community-level civic engagement (e.g. volunteering). Service-learning programmes can help students in the secondary grades develop a broader range of civic engagement outcomes that pertain to the school and community-level context. This study reaffirms the importance of increasing students’ exposure to citizenship education, while emphasising that certain instructional practices can be more effective in helping students develop civic engagement.

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