Is there a connection between youth civic activism and education?

Supervisor: Professor Ian Davies

A) Rationale for the project

It is possible that the goal of citizenship education is to help people understand and engage in society. There are, however, potential obstacles about linking education to what would some would see as politically motivated attempts to create change. In this project a literature review in which the links and disconnections between citizenship education and activism inform data collection from those who are teachers, students and/or activists. The project will explore key questions including: what is meant by activism, what patterns of activism exist and how do those patterns relate to education?

B) References that should be read (if you do not have access to these, please email

Bennett, W. L. & Segerberg, A. (2012). The Logic of Connective Action. Information, Communication & Society, 15:5, 739-768.

Hart, D. & Linkin Gullan, R. (2010). The Sources of Adolescent Activism: historical and contemporary findings. Pp. 67-90 in Sharrod, L. R., Torney-Purta, J., and Flanagan, C. A. (eds.) (2010) Handbook of Research in Civic Engagement in Youth. Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons.

Kahne, J., & Middaugh, E. (2008). Democracy for Some - The Civic Opportunity Gap in High School. CIRCLE Working Paper 59. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. Tufts University.

NFER (2010). (David Kerr, Avril Keating, Thomas Benton, Joana Lopes, Ellie Mundy). Citizenship Education in England 2001-2010: Young people's practices and prospects for the future (The eighth and final report from the Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study (CELS)). National Foundation for Educational Research, Slough.

Westheimer, J. and Kahne, J. (2004). What kind of citizen? The politics of educating for democracy. American Educational Research Journal, 41(2), 237–269.

C) Research aims / questions

  • How do young people, their educators and policy makers understand and construct their civic activism, including different forms, spaces, expectations, aims, and learning and teaching processes?
  • What are the mobilizing factors and inhibitors of such engagement?
  • What are the educational benefits and drawbacks of young people’s civic activism principally regarding identity, capacity and efficacy for individual and social benefit from the local to the global?
  • What educational processes are apt for optimising the educational benefits of young people’s civic activism?

D) Methods

It is likely that general patterns of engagement will be explored and also qualitative data collected and analysed from those within and beyond schools.