AbstractsEducation Research & Administration

Citizenship education in English secondary schools: teaching and learning to transform or conform?

by Nicola Samantha Horsley

Institution: University of Leeds
Year: 2015
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2133310
Full text PDF: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/7824/


This qualitative exploration of understandings of active citizenship in educational contexts reports on interviews with pupils and teachers in six English secondary schools. It sets out to trouble the foundations of citizenship education by tapping into the meanings that citizenship takes on in schools. This thesis therefore engages with the contested concept of citizenship at the level of its interpretation in schools and argues that the tradition of agonistic debate over core citizenship issues should be reflected in educational practice. Insights from critical pedagogy are drawn upon to imagine a transformative educational process with which the practices described by participants might be compared. This focus adds depth to the existing body of research, which has tended towards a pre-occupation with outcomes. The analysis asks: how active are pupils’ and teachers’ understandings of citizenship? and what forms of knowledge are engaged with to construct conceptions of active citizenship in schools? The argument is made for a more nuanced understanding of the value of citizenship in schools, through which the edifying contributions of engagement with the political and the personal might be recognised and nurtured. Mouffe’s radical democratic citizenship offers an account of citizenship as an ongoing process through which this goal might be achieved. It is ventured that the current culture within education policy for schools in England is unlikely to accommodate such a radical approach as learners’ agency is neutralised by pedagogical models that are fundamentally resistant to the practice of citizenship through educational processes but instead serve an instrumental agenda of manufacturing ‘model citizens’. This form of education may equip young people to appear as citizens, as they follow the model presented to them, but such imitation is a departure from the original aims of introducing citizenship to schools; and, it is argued, anathema to true democratic participation.