The goal of the study is to examine the effects of the Active citizenship (ACT) program on students’ civic skills, democratic engagement and tolerance as well as on teachers’ teaching practices and beliefs about citizenship education. The program, which primarily consists in providing teachers with a 2-days training and with continuous guidance over the school year to help them implement a citizenship project in their classroom, is implemented in England, France, Greece and Spain.
The two-day training session is provided by specific trainers recruited by the Public Authority in each country. It aims at exploring the nature and the objective of the ACT program and to promote active learning through the implementation of student-centered teaching practices. It also aims at informing teachers about the stages of the program and the methodology to be followed in each stage, with emphasis on citizenship projects’ implementation in the classroom, which is asking teachers to modify the traditional teacher-student relationship so that students have the opportunity to exercise autonomy as fellow citizens. Eventually, the training also aims at promoting the implementation of innovative assessment methods (self and peer evaluation).
An important aspect of the ACT program is continued guidance for participating teachers throughout the project implementation period. Teachers who participated in the training continue to receive support, feedback and guidance throughout the project implementation period via a mentoring program that is organized with the same trainers responsible for the face-to-face training at the beginning of the school year.
Participating classes in treated schools implement citizenship projects over the course of the school year, from roughly October through April (this period varies across countries). Students work in small groups to design a citizenship project proposal that they present to the class for a vote. Once the class has voted for the project they wish to implement, the teacher works with the class to co-construct an action plan for project implementation. Working in randomly-assigned small groups, students share responsibility for the implementation of their chosen citizenship project and the realization of its activities.
An ACT citizenship project is an activity or set of activities (events, services, campaigns…) organized around at least one of the ACT themes (fighting discrimination, social inclusion, cultural diversity) and designed to benefit a specific group of people, either at school or in the community. It has a well-defined objective (to raise awareness, to inspire change, to promote dialogue, to bring people together…) around which these activities are organized. It also has a target audience (other classes in the same grade, classes from lower grades, another school, community groups, the whole community) at which the activity or activities will be directed. Above all, an ACT citizenship project is led by students and guided by the teacher.