Digital Citizenship (2.0) – Rich Reflection #2

“What Kind of Citizen? The Politics of Educating for Democracy”

Westheimer and Kahne researched citizenship education and how one’s concept of citizenship shapes their value as citizen.  In order to do this, they clarified their three different definitions of citizen: the personally responsible citizen, the participatory citizen, and the justice oriented citizen.  They seemed to believe that these are not three progressive levels of citizenship; instead, they suggest that they are completely different types of people.  The example they give is this – the personally responsible citizen “contributes to the food drive”, the participatory citizen “helps to organize the food drive”, and the justice oriented citizen “explores why people are hungry and acts to solve the root problems” (Westheimer 27).

They made a few points that I agreed with, but I was surprised by the blurb at the end of the article that tells about the awards this piece received.  For one thing, I didn’t think the experiment provided reliable data.  The schools, time periods, and research questions were too different.  Secondly, I don’t feel like the data is reliable because the conclusions cannot be based on the answers to questions that students give.  The proof should be judging what kind of citizens the students grew up to be.  I did think both methods of teaching citizenship seemed to be very effective!  I like that the kids were engaged and that they felt like they contributed something.  I would love to include some of these ideas in my own classroom.

How does digital citizenship differ from digital literacy?  I think citizenship relates to responsible personal use of technology.  I think literacy relates to fluency of technology use.  We could learn a lesson about developing our own model of digital citizenship from these researchers if we focused on the justice oriented model.  “Study and seek to change…” (17).

Westheimer, Joel, and Joseph Kahne. “What Kind of Citizen? The Politics of Educating for Democracy.” American Educational Research Journal, vol. 41, no. 2, 2004, pp. 237–269.


Author: admin

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3 thoughts on “Digital Citizenship (2.0) – Rich Reflection #2”

  1. To be fair, they do note that there can be overlap between methods used teaching and facilitating the three different models…and not being “cumulative” doesn’t necessarily rule out the possibility of using the three models in a progressive framework…even if that’s not what they observed.

    The other way of considering it then is that in this research—as limited as it might have been—it did not seem that promoting one model of citizenship provided significant gains toward or characteristic of the other two.

    I am curious about your assertion that the “the schools, time periods, and research questions were too different.” How many would be enough? How would you classify schools to consider them similar?

    Also, you write that “conclusions cannot be based on the answers to questions that students give. The proof should be judging what kind of citizens the students grew up to be.” — but it isn’t a zero-sum game: it would indeed be interesting to follow-up with the groups to see if their actions later conformed to the position predicted by their answers…but this is basically a “flaw” of a lot of educational research where you are, by necessity, forced to evaluate what is essentially an academic question at that point. So, does this mean that all assessments of student knowledge that have, at best, minimal actual applications, are untrustworthy?

    1. I am not a data-gatherer, but I thought that for data to be meaningful the control groups needed to be similar. The writers themselves admit that the inner-city school changed its curriculum after the first year. One school had several large classes, the other had one small class. The students in the schools experienced life from such different demographics that the data should have been skewed on that fact alone.

      With this point specifically, citizenship, I feel that the end game is the proof. I do feel that simply questioning the kids about their experience is a very surface level assessment.

  2. Quantitatively, yes. But qualitatively, which is the end of the spectrum where most educational research necessarily exists, we have to glean what we can. The mere fact that research isn’t quantitative or doesn’t have a “large N” doesn’t automatically invalidate it.

    As for the end game…sure. But my point is that is almost ALWAYS the ultimate proof…and a proof we essentially have little or no access to on almost any topic. That near-truism remains true for pretty much all liberal arts study, vocational topics, etc. But I don’t think we can use that to choose not to assess at all, right? As educators we have to work with what we have. While the *ultimate* proof of a digicit curriculum and process of any kind lies later in life (and then we still have to answer because “end game” is subject to the “no true Scotsman” problem, aka moving the goal posts), even then, at what point in life would that proof be reliable? I don’t know about you, but I am still evolving. Maybe we need to evaluate only after death 🙂

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