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Adolescents' Experiences in an Activism and Global Citizenship Course: An Action Research Study Open Access

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This teacher action research study was situated in the context of secondary curriculum and instruction, motivated by the increased need to educate students to become active and participatory citizens capable of making an impact upon local and global communities to which they belong. At the heart of this study were sixteen students enrolled in a high school course, Activism and Global Citizenship, at an elite, progressive independent secondary school in a mid-Atlantic U.S. city. The study explored the students' and teacher's experiences in the course through coursework and reflection assignments to identify what pedagogical and curricular approaches best support the course's objectives to develop students' global competence and capacity to (1) investigate the world, (2) recognize different perspectives, (3) communicate effectively with diverse audiences, and (4) take appropriate action to improve the world. Findings from the study revealed that the learning context--an academically privileged environment--and the students' and teacher's different social and racial identities factored significantly into the enactment of the curriculum, experience in the course, and the extent to which the course's learning objectives were achieved. The study also found that students' understanding of themselves as activists and global citizens was mixed; some students showed little or no change while others showed considerable transformation of what they thought at the start to the end of the course. Finally, conceptual findings included the value of engaging students in authentic teaching and learning, the importance of guiding students to examine their identities and lived experiences to develop a more inclusive worldview, and the value of integrating service-learning with educating for global competence. The findings from this study advance our understanding of how an integrated service-learning and globally-oriented curriculum at an elite independent school can effectively meet the developmental needs of students setting forth in an increasingly interconnected global society. These findings also contribute to existing literature in the areas of adolescent civic engagement and identity development, service-learning curriculum, pedagogical approaches to global citizenship, pedagogy of privileged students, and civic education in elite learning environments.

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