Abstract 9, Volume 11, Number 3, Fall 2016

Unlocking the Civic Potential of Current Events with an Open Classroom Climate


Jennice McCafferty-Wright

University of Missouri


Ryan Knowles

Utah State University


Current events and citizenship intersect in students’ classrooms in ways both problematic and full of potential.  Teachers take a range of approaches, from the passive, weekly regurgitation of news stories to the empowered use of current events to explore broader issues and inform civic engagement.  Creating an open classroom climate can help teachers unlock the civic potential of current events, which aids students in building civic knowledge, internal political efficacy, and civic self-efficacy.  This article begins by introducing teachers to research on open classroom climates using data from the International Civic and Citizenship Survey (ICCS).  We then provide examples of the components of an open classroom climate and a survey created from ICCS items for teachers to assess their own classroom’s climate.  Elements of an open classroom climate are applied to current events pedagogy with a lesson plan for young children that explores civic responses to water scarcity and features All the Water in the World, a picture book by George Ella Lyon and Katherine Tillotson.

     Keywords: current events, citizenship, classroom climate, water scarcity, civic knowledge,internal political efficacy, civic self-efficacy, pedagogy, lesson plan

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