The Critical Civic Potential of Elementary Students


Citizenship education is the oft-stated purpose of education in many societies. While what that includes differs across societies, rarely is it approached from a critical perspective. This session focuses on results of a qualitative study on how Critical Democratic Literacy (CDL), which grounds both civic and literacy education in critical theory, was used to develop and implement an integrated social studies and literacy curriculum in a US elementary classroom. The CDL curriculum was designed to address the limited attention to social studies and civic education, combined with a functional approach to literacy present in US elementary classrooms due to an accountability movement narrowly focused on testing of low-level knowledge. The implemented curriculum focused on connecting political and philosophical ideals associated with the founding of the US to current events, as well as students’ own lives. Students began to develop critical literacy skills, as well as historical thinking skills, particularly related to the ethical dimension of historical thinking. Results suggest that the students recognized a civic dimension to their identity. Further, those identities focused on the betterment of their communities through their own agentic behaviors, with an emphasis on issues of fairness, respect, and autonomy. Given the potential of developing more critically minded young citizens, more attention must be paid to curriculum and pedagogical practices that support this development, as well as the preparation of teachers in the relevant content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge across social studies, citizenship education, critical literacy, and integration.


Pedagogy, Curriculum, Civic, Elementary, Literacy, Social Studies


Pedagogy and Curriculum


Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


  • Dr. Kathryn Obenchain
    • Professor & Associate Dean, Curriculum & Instruction, Purdue University, United States IN, United States