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Developing students’ understandings of citizenship and advocacy through action civics

Brooke Blevins (Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Baylor University, Waco, Texas, USA)
Karon Nicol LeCompte (Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Baylor University, Waco, Texas, USA)
Michelle Bauml (Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas, USA)

Social Studies Research and Practice

ISSN: 1933-5415

Article publication date: 10 September 2018




In the wake of the 2016 US presidential election and the political turmoil that has ensued since, the need to prepare youth as active, well-informed citizens is self-evident. Middle and high school students have the potential to shape public and political opinion and encourage others to engage in collective, grassroots civic efforts to enact positive change in their communities through social media and face-to-face communication (CIRCLE Staff, 2018). Action civics has emerged as a promising civic education practice for preparing young people for active and informed civic participation. By providing students with the opportunity to “engage in a cycle of research, action, and reflection about problems they care about personally while learning about deeper principles of effective civic and especially political action” (Levinson, 2012, p. 224). The paper aims to discuss these issues.


This interpretive qualitative case study utilized Westheimer and Kahne’s (2004) citizen typology to examine 30 fifth through ninth graders’ conceptions of citizenship, civic action and advocacy as a result of their participation in an action civics inquiry project that took place during summer civics camps.


Findings show that overall, students’ conceptions of citizenship remained relatively unchanged after participating in the summer civics camps; however, students did develop increased understanding of advocacy and were more readily able to identify the “root causes” of community issues.


Implications of this study add to a small but growing body of literature on the outcomes of action civics programs and may inform the design and implementation of these kinds of programs.



Blevins, B., LeCompte, K.N. and Bauml, M. (2018), "Developing students’ understandings of citizenship and advocacy through action civics", Social Studies Research and Practice, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 185-198.



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