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    Educators’ responses to key top-down citizenship education related initiatives

    Lawson, Helen Sarah (2014) Educators’ responses to key top-down citizenship education related initiatives. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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    Introduction: In 2001, the year before citizenship education became a statutory subject in England there were disturbances and violence ‘involving large numbers of people from different cultural backgrounds’ (The Cantle Report, 2001). That same year the attacks on the Twin Towers rocked the world and in 2005 so-called ‘home-grown’ extremists bombed London killing 52 people. Reports were commissioned to explore the reasons behind these events and to suggest recommended ways forward. Concerns were raised about intuitional racism, internal security, a lack of a sense of Britishness and extremism. All prompted an education response. From 2002 teachers had to cope with more and more education initiatives and directives which addressed key issues and concerns, with citizenship education in particular being seen as playing a key role in bringing about the necessary societal change. The aims of this research are to show how teachers, student teachers and tutors say they are responding to the many top-down initiatives related to citizenship education, and reveal the mechanisms that impact on the ways in which educators say they are responding to the top-down initiatives related to citizenship education. Methodology: The research uses a qualitative research design which is underpinned by critical realism. Critical realism helped to provide the necessary methodological framework to reveal the generative mechanisms which might be working to influence educators’ responses (tendencies) to top-down initiatives; and how and why these tendencies occur in some settings but not others. The empirical research has been generated over a ten year period and I employed a variety of data collection tools including questionnaires; semi-structured interview; focus group and participant observation. Findings: The number of top-down initiatives that have been introduced by the government has seen some very different responses from educators. Some educators are able to interlace different agendas and weave varied themes together in creative ways as a means of addressing different demands. For others the initiatives seem to be source of pressure which sets up a tendency to interpret the initiatives as something more, something additional that has to be managed, particularly in the case where educators are having to address different priorities such as raising or maintaining results. This in turn helps to create further sets of tendencies and tensions with some educators employing teaching and learning processes which are incompatible with citizenship education. Conclusion: While there are a number of mechanisms which seem to be particularly significant to tendency generation including school context and appropriate training, highly significant mechanisms for generating educators’ responses are personal commitment and motivation, and the ability to think creatively. It is possible that, through appropriate training, educators can acquire skills in creative and critical thinking. However the passion and motivation to teach citizenship education is much harder to impart. The majority of educators who were committed to citizenship, and in particular those committed to teaching for diversity and dialogue, had had some kind of personal experience which had not only provoked commitment but also provided a personal resource for educators to draw on in the classroom, which in turn helped to increase educators’ confidence to address potentially highly controversial issues. The potential for innovative educator training to capture and transmit the feelings that personal experience can inspire is thus an area that would benefit from further research.

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