CIVIC EDUCATION IN TIMES OF CRISIS – THE IMPORTANCE OF MEANING AND MEANING MAKING
Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany
The COVID-19 pandemic and the governmental response to it has given rise to various conspiracy theories, which are propagated in the public sphere and call into question the democratic order of society. The growing presence of conspiracy theories in crisis situations can be explained with their ability to help individuals make sense of a confusing or threatening situation. Averse feelings, such as fear, uncertainty or the perception of a loss of control lead to an engagement in cognitive activities that give meaning and purpose to a situation, thus helping individuals to regain some degree of authority (Douglas et al. 2019). Due to their simple explanatory patterns and clear attribution of blame, conspiracy theories can be seen as a tool which helps individuals in making sense of their current situation. A growing belief in conspiracy theories can however also be seen as a symptom of a broader democratic crisis, in which citizens are unable to agree on what is true and what is untrue (Butter 2018). This, paired with the reproduction of stereotypes and the questioning of democratic values, make conspiracy theories an important issue for civic education processes.
Even though current studies have shown that an analytical mindset and scientific explanations can guard against the belief in conspiracy theories (Douglas et al. 2019), it is not enough for civic education to focus on the acquisition of knowledge, but also on the area of meaning and making sense of one’s environment. The process of “meaning making” (Bruner 1990; Zittoun and Brinkmann 2012), in which people interpret situations in the light of their previous knowledge and experience, has to be particularly addressed by civic education in times of crisis. The focus on individual processes of making sense of the world has been addressed by different didactical approaches (e.g. Lange 2008), and the current rise of conspiracy theories within society highlights the necessity to advance them. The goal is to discuss the need for approaches that go beyond preparing students with correct knowledge and focus on the acts of meaning and meaning making citizens and future citizens are involved in. This will also involve an interdisciplinary perspective, focusing on the different domains of knowledge and beliefs involved in constructing meaning of the social world and the challenges emerging in times of crisis.
Bruner, J. S. (1990). Acts of meaning. Harvard Univ. Press.
Butter, M. (2018). "Nichts ist, wie es scheint": Über Verschwörungstheorien (Band 10271). Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung.
Douglas, K. M., Uscinski, J. E., Sutton, R. M., Cichocka, A., Nefes, T., Ang, C. S., & Deravi, V. (2019). Understanding Conspiracy Theories. Advances in Political Psychology, 40(1), 3–35.
Lange, D. (2008b). Bürgerbewusstsein: Sinnbilder und Sinnbildungen in der Politischen Bildung. Gesellschaft – Wirtschaft – Politik (GWP), 57(3), 431–439.
Zittoun, T., & Brinkmann, S. (2012). Learning as Meaning Making. In N. M. Seel (Ed.), Encyclopedia of the sciences of learning (pp. 1809–1811). Springer.
EDUCATING DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC: PRACTICES FROM THE YOUTH FIELD
University of Vienna, Center for Teacher Education, Department of Didactics of Civic and Citizenship Education
The Covid-19 pandemic affected not only school education, but as well the field of youth work. Conceived as a broad term, youth work is performed by volunteer or paid professionals. It offers a variety of social, cultural, educational, environmental and political activities to young people. These take place in various spaces and contexts. Moreover, they promote non-formal and informal learning to encourage participation, inclusion in communities and decision-making in political processes. This work is furthermore indispensable to provide support in stressful circumstances.
In this abstract, I will address the question of how youth workers upheld this educational and political mandate during the pandemic. I will do so by looking at the case of the Erasmus+ project “Learning to Participate” that I was involved in. In this project, youth workers from Austria, Croatia and Italy organised educational activities for young people between the months of November 2020 and January 2021.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the work with young people took place entirely online. As the goal of the LEAP project was to contribute to build participatory citizenship, the educational practices and activities with young people were driven by Project-based Learning (PBL). This approach was inspired by the ideas of Dewey (1916), Kilpatrick (1918) and a model from Krajcik and Blumenfeld (2005). While PBL is mostly developed in the school context (Veletsianos, Lin and Russell, 2016; Fogleman, McNeill and Krajcik, J. 2011), this project experimented it in the youth sector.
This abstract aims to share a qualitative reflection of these educational practices. Data are collected through text-based documentation from the project and analysed qualitatively. Examples of data include self-reflective reports of youth workers and other educational material.
Therefore, I will firstly present Project-based Learning in the youth field. Secondly, I will present the practices and activities implemented. Lastly, I will discuss the implications of this approach for Citizenship Education.
Dewey, J. (1916): Democracy and education: An introduction to the Philosophy of Education, New York: Macmillan. pp. 434.
Fogleman, J., McNeill, K. L., and Krajcik, J. (2011): Examining the effect of teachers’ adaptations of a middle school science inquiry‐oriented curriculum unit on student learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 48 (2), 149-169.
Kilpatrick, W. H. (1918): The Project Method. Teachers College Record, 19, 319-335.
Krajcik, J., & Blumenfeld, P. (2005). Project-Based Learning. In R. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 317-334.
Veletsianos, G. B., Lin, C., and Russell, G. (2016): Design principles for Thriving in Our Digital World: A high school computer science course. Journal of Educational Computing Research 54 (4), 443-461.
 Source here: https://www.coe.int/en/web/youth/youth-work. Accessed on 31 August 2020.
THE CHALLENGES OF THE GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION BEFORE THE COVID-19 AND BEYOND
Department of Education Studies "Giovanni Maria Bertin", University of Bologna, Italy
As the world is increasingly interconnected, human rights violations, inequality and poverty still threaten peace and sustainability. Global Citizenship Education (GCED) is UNESCO's proposal to respond to these challenges and plays an important role in driving cultural, social and political change for building a more just and sustainable world. Under the aegis of the GCED, the most recent international guidelines invite education to “lead the change” of society and culture in order to implement initiatives aimed at promoting a more inclusive and sustainable society. The main questions to be answered mainly concerned the social significance of education, its main objectives and how it should be reconsidered in a multidimensional perspective, i.e. based on a lifelong learning perspective, capable of embracing childhood and adult-hood through formal and informal programs and activities, inside and outside the school system (Goren and Yemini, 2017). In line with this perspective, issues such as human rights and intercultural dialogue, migration and social inclusion and equality are becoming increasingly urgent at all school levels. In particular, the GCED framework aims to reinforce the scholastic challenge "in the prevention of violent extremism and to identify and examine a concrete and comprehensive education to the threats of violent extremism" (Unesco, 2019) and requires to address the "global issues" in the classrooms (Gill and Niens, 2014). In the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, the possibility of pursuing these ongoing challenges requires being able to redefine social and educational needs, reformulate and reconceptualise emerging problems, renew institutional commitment and a sense of community, defend the democratic education, and more. In this direction, this contribution aims to explore if and to what extent teachers and institutions are considering this global challenge in light of the educational needs that have emerged from the pandemic situation. It will be observed which actions are implemented in projects and interventions activated in formal and informal contexts (i.e. Seipiù, Amitie, Amitie Code; S-Confinati, MigratED) in the Municipality of Bologna aimed at promoting the GCED with young people. We will identify which methods and strategies support the younger generation to take an active and role in this global challenge and the development of pedagogical approaches that aim to support societal changes.
Biesta, G. (2007). Education and the democratic person: Towards a political understanding of democratic education. Teachers college record, 109(3), 740-769.
Goren, H., & Yemini, M. (2017). Global citizenship education redefined–A systematic review of empirical studies on global citizenship education. International Journal of Educational Research, 82, 170-183.
Gill, S., & Niens, U. (2014). Education as humanisation: A theoretical review on the role of dialogic pedagogy in peacebuilding education. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 44(1), 10–31.
Swanson, D. M., & Gamal, M. (2021). Global Citizenship Education/Learning for Sustainability: tensions,‘flaws’, and contradictions as critical moments of possibility and radical hope in educating for alternative futures. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 1-14.
UNESCO, 2019 , Global Education Monitoring Report, https://gem-report-2019.unesco.org/
THE ROLE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION AND MEDIA LITERACY IN TIMES OF CRISIS: THE OUTCOMES OF THE ERUM PROJECT
University of Vienna, Austria
Over the past decade, the whole world – and Europe in particular – has experienced multiple, interrelated crises (economic, political, pandemic) that have affected the stability of contemporary societies. From a civic perspective, these crises have generated similar trends in several European countries. An increasing number of people has shown growing diffidence towards both traditional and science communication, resorting instead to alternative information channels. While this might not always be bad per se – it is only through continuously challenging the establishment and questioning scientific research that it is possible to make social and educational progresses – it is nonetheless evident that these trends have gone towards a negative direction, fostering the production and dissemination of mis- and disinformation, conspiracy theories and fake news. Far from being isolated or niche phenomena, such manipulated and distorted information have spread widely and in some cases reached the mainstream, propagated even by dominant media and popular politicians.
In these times of multiple crises, the role of citizenship education is therefore crucial in the attempt to carefully grasp current social developments, critically assess their origins and repercussions, and progressively steer these trends towards more positive outcomes. In this context, I argue, citizenship education should provide more honed analytical tools to deal with an increasingly complex reality without resorting to simplistic, fabricated or manipulated answers. Drawing upon the work of the Erasmus+ funded ERUM project (Enhancing Research Understanding through Media), this paper will precisely discuss the development of one such potential learning tool and its role in creating better-informed citizens and teachers in the future, capable of acknowledging, communicating and spreading science in a more clear and efficient way.
By investigating the role of science education and media literacy, the ERUM project has aimed, in particular, at improving media and information literacy among young students and aspirant journalists. The project, which has involved a wide number of researchers, journalists and students across 7 European countries, has already successfully carried out an Intensive Study Program – which has seen the participation of dozens of students from all over Europe – and is now in the process of developing learning materials for future teachers. This paper will introduce the latest developments of the project, with particular focus on the creation of the learning materials and their role in building critical knowledge and awareness, with the aim of receiving feedback in this direction and initiate a fruitful discussion among scholars and practitioners. It is only by questioning traditional science communication challenges and laying the foundation for the development of science communication competences and skills, the paper will eventually argue, that it will be possible to counteract the spread of mis-, disinformation and fake news, and critically assess the crises that we are facing.
TOWARDS A CRITICAL CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION AS POLITICAL PRACTICE
University of Niederrhein/University of applied Sciences, Germany
This paper argues that citizenship as a “right to have rights” (Hegel, Fichte, Arendt) has to be understood as a political practice, which discloses the world- and selfunderstandings of its members. It should not be based on national belongings, but on active participation within civil society (Benhabib). This active participation needs a focus on the principle of “thinking in the place of someone else” as an “enlarged mentality” (Kant, Arendt), by reflecting to the same time there socio-oeconomic conditions.