Power to the students: Contributing to debates on effective learning about civic engagement

Year: 2005

Author: Dobozy, Eva

Type of paper: Refereed paper

In this paper, I discuss some research findings regarding the characteristics that democratic schools appear to have in common. These commonalities seem to have contributed to their status as being seen as reputable democratic schools. Schools that were diverse in their philosophical approaches to education and socio-economic composition were selected as case study schools. A specific selection criterion was that these schools had a reputation for nurturing the critical capabilities of students within an explicit 'citizenship framework'. Students were not seen as 'objects to be acted upon', but rather were trusted to be subjects of rights and responsibilities within the school community in some form or other. The research included analysis of interview, observation and document data. Three major corresponding features were identified: a) the principals perceived their schools to be 'out of the ordinary', b) all four case study sites had carefully developed school rules as statements of principles rather than an extensive list of do's and don'ts, and c) three of the four schools seem to employ differential treatment practices rather than a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to the discipline of students. The findings suggest that it is possible for schools to educate effectively in and for democracy by ways of day-to-day educational practices that inspire some aspects of political and moral student empowerment.