2020 NAEd Annual Meeting Plenary: Civic Reasoning and Discourse

Plenary Description

This plenary session will highlight findings to date from the Civic Reasoning and Discourse Report. The goal of the project is to improve students’ learning in these areas by ensuring that the pedagogy, curriculum, and learning environments that they experience are informed by the best available evidence, and to expand the responsibility for such learning beyond traditional civics classes. The initiative also aims to advance public understanding of the complexities for preparing youth to engage in civic reasoning and discourse to inform educational research, policy, and practice.

Plenary Format

This session will include an introduction, five breakout sessions, and a final group discussion. More information about the breakout sessions is outlined in the next section.

  • Introduction (20 minutes): Carol Lee (committee chair) will introduce the plenary session with a presentation on the civics project.
  • Breakout Sessions (50 minutes):Attendees can choose to attend one of the five breakout sessions. Each session has a moderator, presenters, and a notetaker. In order to maximize discussion, the notetaker will create a written summary of each discussion and highlight big remaining questions. The summary document will be posted as a reference for attendees after the session.
  • Group Discussion (50 minutes): Everyone will rejoin the larger group for a general discussion and discuss the next steps for the project and implications. The big remaining questions identified in breakout sessions will be vetted by steering committee members in this session.

Breakout Sessions

Breakout One: Learning and Development

Moderator: Onnie Rogers, Northwestern University
Presenters: Na’ilah Suad Nasir, Spencer Foundation; Natalia Smirnov, Independent Researcher
Final discussion summary: Alan Schoenfeld, University of California, Berkeley 

The Learning and Development Panel seeks to document the extant research that helps us understand what is entailed in civic reasoning and discourse and how the knowledge and epistemological dispositions such work requires can and should be distributed across the subject matters taught in school (e.g., literacy, history/social studies, science, mathematics, literature).  We have theorized that this problem space includes cognitive dimensions (knowledge, epistemological orientations), phenomenological dimensions (perceptions of the self, of others), moral dimensions (the moral and ethical dimensions of what we value), and issues of conceptual change and implicit bias. We posit that addressing the challenges of preparing students to engage in civic reasoning and discourse requires that any such preparation be grounded in a multi-dimensional understanding of human learning and development.

Breakout Two: Philosophical Foundations/Moral Reasoning; History of Education for Democracy

Moderator: Jennifer Morton, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Presenters: Nancy Beadie, University of Washington; Zoe Burkholder, Montclair State University; Sarah Stitzlein, University of Cincinnati
Final discussion summary: Andrew Hartman, Illinois State University; Rowan Steineker, Florida Gulf Coast University

This panel will discuss the philosophical and moral underpinnings of civic reasoning and discourse. It begins with an analysis of how these operate in ideal situations in the hope of informing our practice within and understanding of the non-ideal contexts and forms of civic life. It builds definitions of civic reasoning and discourse around the key civic question: “What should we do?” Key findings include the knowledge and skills that support civic reasoning and discourse, including inquiry, fact-finding, logic, rationality, critical thinking, discussion, and deliberation. Additional topics include values, virtues, and dispositions that support civic reasoning and discourse, including empathy, consensus, compromise, collaboration, and civility. Implications are drawn for citizenship education.

Additionally, this panel will examine multiple historical attempts to address the challenge of educating future publics for pluralist democracy in the face of repeated violations and contestations of democratic ideals. The discussion will include four central problems of civic education and the analysis of the seven historical examples of how particular historical actors have understood and engaged those problems in their own lives and times. We show how diverse people fought to create more inclusive civic education and more just and robust visions of what it means to sustain a pluralist democracy that recognizes and protects the rights of all. A critical analysis of past examples of civic education and activism, we argue, will help us cultivate the powers of civic reasoning and civic agency necessary to confront both the ongoing legacies of injustice and the current critical issues of our time.

Breakout Three: Social/Ecological Contexts of Civic Reasoning and Discourse; Pedagogical Practices and How Teachers Learn

Moderator: James Banks, University of Washington
Presenters: Hilary Conklin, Depaul University; Beth Rubin, Rutgers University
Final discussion summary: Jane Lo, Michigan State University

This panel will explore the connections between the social and political contexts structuring youth experience globally and opportunities for and enactments of civic discourse and reasoning. The discussion will highlight three interwoven aspects of context that are underexplored in the traditional research on civic education – structural inequality, migration, and conflict—to shine attention on the perspectives of young people whose civic encounters, histories, and practices may not be aligned with the content and approach of mainstream civic education. These experiences of civic disjuncture can lead to important critical perspectives on democratic practice, enriching civic discourse, reasoning and engagement.

Additionally, this panel will examine the pedagogical and curricular practices that foster youth civic reasoning and discourse in the context of K-12 schools, how students’ identities shape their engagement with one another about controversial issues, and how educators should be supported so that they can foster students’ civic reasoning and discourse. We identify many promising pedagogical and curricular practices that support students’ civic reasoning and discourse. We highlight important ways that teachers and curricula can either support, engage, and sustain students’ various social identities through these practices or privilege some students’ identities to the exclusion of others, creating differential opportunities for the development of students’ civic reasoning and discourse. Finally, we examine broad approaches that have shown success in supporting educators’ learning and development.

Breakout Four: Learning Environments, School/Classroom Climates; Discourse and Reasoning in the Digital Age

Moderator: Judith Torney-Purta, University of Maryland; Carolyn Barber, University of Missouri, Kansas City
Presenters: Carolyn Barber, University of Missouri, Kansas City; Antero Garcia, Stanford University; Nicole Mirra, Rutgers University
Final discussion summary: Sarah McGrew, University of Maryland

This panel reviews the research literature on the relationship between learning environments at school and the development of civic discourse, reasoning, and engagement. We identify four main areas of focus: definition and assessment of learning environments, establishing conducive climates for reasoning and discourse in schools and classrooms, varying student perceptions of climates, and barriers to establishing climates for civic discourse and reasoning. Based on our review of these four areas, we provide recommendations for research that responds to changing political and social landscapes as well as recommendations for practice. 

This panel will also focus on the opportunities and challenges created by the transformation in the practice of politics among youth and on ways that educators might better prepare youth for civic reasoning and discourse in the digital age. More specifically, we analyze efforts to support reasoning and discourse by helping youth to interact safely and productively in online spaces, assess the reliability of information, leverage the power of connected learning opportunities, and engage in political action online. 

Breakout Five: Agency and Resilience in the Face of Challenge as Civic Action

Moderator: Cati de los Rios, University of California, Berkeley
Presenters: James Anderson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Megan Bang, Spencer Foundation; Kris Gutierrez, University of California, Berkeley; Deborah Hicks-Rogoff, Duke University; Li-Ching Ho, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Final discussion summary: Maribel Santiago, University of Washington

Citizenship entails how persons living in the U.S. and its territories understand what citizenship means and how they can and should engage that citizenship. This envisionment of citizenship is particularly salient for populations who have historically had to wrestle with de facto and de jure discrimination and who have and continue to disproportionately experience inequalities. Groups who have most persistently faced such challenges include ethnic/racial minorities, those facing inter-generational poverty, often first-generation immigrant groups at particular points in our history including those without legal citizenship status, especially today, and women. This panel will examine how these wrestlings around the meanings and enactment of citizenship unfold in agentive education in these communities: Native American, African American, Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Appalachian. The panel will also examine in historical and current contexts the factors and forces that shape what citizenship means – its opportunities and constraints – and how through civic action these communities demonstrated agency and resilience; and in so doing moved the nation forward in coming closer to achieving the goals articulated at its founding – the preservation of the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This