Theses Doctoral

Opportunities for Civic Engagement: A Study in Five Secondary Social Studies Classes

Pope IV, Alexander

I investigate stakeholder experiences in five New York City secondary classes associated with the low end of the civic opportunity gap. Classroom stakeholders are students, teachers, and college mentors participating in the Generation Citizen program. Generation Citizen is a push-in program meant to promote civic engagement opportunities in middle and high schools associated with the civic opportunity gap. The civic opportunity gap refers to observations that opportunities for civic engagement differ based on racial and socioeconomic markers.
A conceptual framework based on situated learning theory (Lave & Wenger, 1991) guides data collection and analysis. The framework draws attention to the experiences of individuals and groups in specific contexts, called communities of practice. Successful learning in a community of practice begins with legitimate peripheral participation, a process similar to apprenticeship. Situated learning theory considers the ways that people engage with each other around important issues, imagine realities in other communities, and try to align their efforts with existing processes.
I present data collected through observations of classroom interactions and interviews with students, teachers, and program mentors. I find that legitimate peripheral participation required classroom stakeholders to engage the root causes of their chosen issues and put their knowledge into practice through actions aligned with the locus of their issue. This finding emerged through three themes, which address the role of classroom pedagogies in supporting or complicating the process of legitimate peripheral participation. Themes allow a discussion of the role that classroom interactions play in framing civic engagement experiences. Opportunities for civic engagement in school can positively address the problems of civic gaps when youth can name and enact legitimate efforts on their own terms.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Teaching of Social Studies
Thesis Advisors
Schmidt, Sandra
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 27, 2015