Interactive civic education: Effective political learning for citizenship in democratic Russia

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Gavan Duffy


Civic education, Learning, Citizenship, Democratic, Russia, Interactive education

Subject Categories

Other Psychology | Political Science


My dissertation research considers the effectiveness of two types of civic education, traditional and interactive, in promoting support for democratic values. I tested 10 groups of eighth and ninth grade students using Q methodology which asks participants to rank their political beliefs according to internal criteria of importance. Two classrooms were chosen from the cities of Chelyabinsk, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Oryol and Vladimir. One classroom from each city had been studying interactive-learning civic education as part of a trial study while the other classroom only began their traditional-learning civics course in the 1995/96 school year. The 122 students were tested at the beginning of the school year in September 1995 and again in May 1996.

My analysis of the study data revealed two general trends among the civics students. First, the majority of students with no prior exposure to civic education shifted from more naïve and tentative understandings of a democratic system (i.e. believing that the president is the ultimate authority, or that a centralized economy and free market system are compatible) to greater political and civic awareness. These students at the end of their course prioritized the concepts of the rule of law, the authority of the Constitution, and political accountability. Minimally, civic education helps students to develop more knowledgeable and informed judgments about the political process based on the acquisition of factual information. However, the permanence of their democratic affiliations may be undermined by the late introduction of civics in their formal education.

The second trend concerned the active-learning civics students. The majority of these students exhibited consistently informed, knowledge-based judgments about the political process and endorsed democratic values in both tests. Teaching style proved to be an important aspect of their civics courses that contributed to students' democratic value orientations. These programs actively use methods and resources, which engage students in their own education. The open classroom environment appears to make democratic practices and approaches to problem-solving a habit for students that ideally they will carry into adult political behavior.


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