Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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LINK: Social Studies in Action Home
Students talking together. In This Lesson:.
Exploring The Issues.
Applying What You've Learned.
NCSS Themes in This Lesson.

Creating Effective Citizens

How do students learn to reconcile often competing notions of democracy, such as individual freedom versus the common good?

Everyone agrees that engaging students in civic concepts and processes is an important goal, but there are differing views about how to meet that goal. Some educators use positive examples from history to provide a solid foundation for the principles of democratic citizenship. Others support this approach but add a rigorous examination of the issues that arise within a democracy.

Both perspectives point to innovative ways of teaching students what effective citizenship entails -- from researching an issue, to voting, to proposing a bill -- so that, as students are learning about the different functions of local and national government, they are also realizing their roles as citizens.

In a participatory democracy, the skills of good citizenship are best introduced at an early age. The classroom provides an ideal forum for this kind of instruction, as students learn how to formulate an opinion and articulate and defend their ideas. Classroom discussions of issues with multiple perspectives help students become better decision makers. When introduced to multiple perspectives, students also learn to think critically and fairly. After understanding how conflict can be settled in the classroom, students can apply their skills on the community and national level.

Social studies is the subject area most directly linked to developing the knowledge, skills, and values associated with responsible citizenship in a democratic society. In the video, "Creating Effective Citizens," teaching students how to become active and effective citizens is illustrated by:

  • role-play and simulations that model civic action,
  • discussing controversial laws about gender discrimination and individual rights,
  • exploring what it means to be a global citizen within a democracy, and
  • engaging students in local and national issues.


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