Exploring the civic potential of places: Place-based education as a tool for youth civic engagement

dc.contributor.advisorMalen, Bettyen_US
dc.contributor.authorSinclair, Kristinen_US
dc.contributor.departmentEducation Policy, and Leadershipen_US
dc.contributor.publisherDigital Repository at the University of Marylanden_US
dc.contributor.publisherUniversity of Maryland (College Park, Md.)en_US
dc.description.abstractThis qualitative case study examined how place-based education (PBE) (e.g. Gruenewald, 2003a, Sobel, 2004), might provide opportunities for young people from marginalized backgrounds to develop civic engagement attitudes, behaviors, commitments and skills. This study investigated personally responsible and participatory civic engagement (e.g., Westheimer & Kahne, 2004), but focused on critical or sociopolitical action and justice-oriented civic engagement (Watts & Flanagan, 2007). Grounded in a conceptual framework encompassing PBE’s theory of change, critical theories of place, and youth sociopolitical development (Watts & Flanagan, 2007) this study drew on documents, observations, student work, and interviews with administrators, teachers and 11th grade students at Greenfields Public Charter School during the three month long food justice project (FJP). The FJP was an interdisciplinary, experiential project wherein students researched a local food justice issue through community- and school-based fieldwork. Teachers’ goals for the FJP included that students would gain data analysis and research skills, understand the impact of their individual choices, and develop a set of skills and dispositions for engaging in critical social action, specifically a “sense of their own agency.” Even with a favorable school environment, supportive and flexible administrators, and dedicated teachers, the FJP’s outcomes were ultimately disappointing. Findings suggest that while most students gained research skills, only some developed a sense of agency and civic engagement attitudes, behaviors, and commitments. Students who completed projects that investigated school-based issues demonstrated participatory behaviors and skills. Students who studied neighborhood-based issues, however, were the only ones who demonstrated gains in justice-oriented civic engagement. They reported changes in their attitudes towards other marginalized groups, a greater awareness of structural explanations for injustice, and expressed newfound commitments to “be more active” in their communities. This study identifies conditions under which PBE might foster youth civic engagement. Primarily, it argues that the spatial context of PBE – defined as the arena (i.e., school, neighborhood, or city) in which projects are situated and the meanings of place a project invokes (e.g., place-as-container versus place-as-content and context) – may mediate PBE’s impact on civic engagement. Implications for practice, suggestions for future research, and potential refinements to the conceptual framework are discussed.en_US
dc.subject.pquncontrolledCivic educationen_US
dc.subject.pquncontrolledCivic engagementen_US
dc.subject.pquncontrolledCommunity-based educationen_US
dc.subject.pquncontrolledFood justiceen_US
dc.subject.pquncontrolledPlace-based educationen_US
dc.subject.pquncontrolledSociopolitical actionen_US
dc.titleExploring the civic potential of places: Place-based education as a tool for youth civic engagementen_US


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