Research on teacher skills for active citizenship

The European Education Policy Network on Teachers and School Leaders published a research paper based on extensive desk research covering the 20 countries represented in the network on active citizenship skills and active digital citizenship skills in teaching and learning in the digital age. The paper explores relevant recent research (published in or after 2017), policy examples and inspiring practice. The main finding of the paper is that teachers often lack the necessary citizenship skills themselves, and while there are great programmes that they can use in their teaching, there is very little done on developing the skills of teachers themselves.

In its conclusions, the paper states that an active digital citizenship is a necessary condition to thrive in the transition from a nation-based modern society to a global digitalized society. It brings new hopes and challenges to the quest of social justice, human rights and democracy. An active digital citizenship education cannot rely on a specific programme, curricula or app added to the school setting. It is a lifelong process that calls for an integral approach, where regulation and emancipation flow in a complementary living system. On a regulatory strand, supporting policies (international, national and local), resources (human, financial and technical), evidence-based practices/programmes, safe digital environments and the skills and competences to navigate on those environments create the structure for an active citizenship practice. The practices described on the “Being online” cluster as well as EU policy documents support this strand. Research points to the need of further local policy development, technical resources access and availability as well as professional development in digital skills, digital emotional intelligence and active participation. On an emancipatory strand lie the more subjective dimensions of an education process: participation, solidarity, communication, socio-emotional learning, critical thinking, networking, collaboration, stakeholders’ commitment and engagement, democratic learning environment and culture. The practices described in the “Well-being online” and “Rights Online” clusters create opportunities for the development of this strand. However, the need of projects that specifically address the development of these competences in teachers and school leaders is a gap found in this research, pointing to the need for approaches in teacher education that allow meaningful experiences and engagement in active digital citizenship. To surf the gap between these regulatory and emancipatory poles there is the need for a whole school approach, where material resources and human encouragement are in place, toward the development of a collaborative school culture and organization. Furthermore, reminding that citizenship education is a lifelong process that does not only happen behind school walls, but also involves parents, civil society, academia and the private sector, creating supportive networks for knowledge, dialogue, reflection and creative action. By focusing on the people, not only on their technical skills but also on their emotions, values and social literacy as well as by supporting reflection, creativity and meaning making, there is the possibility to move toward a more human digital world.

The paper formulated the following recommendations for policy:

Based on the desk research and literature review, this analysis points to the following recommendations:

  • Pausing: keeping in mind that active digital citizenship education is a lifelong process that creates opportunities for positive educational and social change and not add on to existing school structure.
    •Resourcing: providing funding for teacher education and technical resources for school digital transition, increasing its access and availability and focusing on open digital platforms that provide content and promote people-to people interaction for experiential learning.
  • Nourishing: supporting teachers’ and school leaders’ professional development through initial and continuous education in:
    • digital literacy, digital emotional intelligence, social literacy and cultural awareness o local/global community engagement and participation
    • mentoring, tutoring and joint teaching designs for school/community peer-to-peer practices.
  • Listening: creating opportunities for a citizen-based local policy development:
  • Identifying bottom-up and regional digital citizenship initiatives to assess and envision possible pathways to sustainable systemic change;
  • Providing opportunity for inside and outside school reflective inquiries, including youth and multiple stakeholders from the school and the wider community.
  • Empowering: allowing teachers, school leaders, students, school staff and parents to act autonomously in school life and be active citizens in their own communities:
  • Developing educational communities where teachers and school leaders act as role models of active digital citizens.
  • Increasing youth opportunities regarding their participation in school daily life, policymaking and curricular processes.
  • Engaging: involving schools, parents, civil society, academia and the private sector, creating supportive networks for knowledge, dialogue, reflection and creative action for local/global issues:
  • Allowing conditions for skills development, research and critical thinking, dialogue and debate, online/offline community engagement and activism;
  • Promoting intercultural dialogue, meaningful action and reflective inquiry.
  • Flourishing: regarding the school as a community of guided practice in active digital citizenship, embracing technology and creating platforms to relate, research and act together in a collaborative and experiential learning environment.

The paper can be downloaded from the website under Research Year 2.

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