September 10, 2012
Street Law and its partners—Constitutional Rights Foundation and Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago—are celebrating the end of a successful program year for Deliberating in a Democracy in the Americas.
Since 2004, the program has trained teachers in the United States, Central/Eastern Europe, North/Western Asia, and—most recently—Latin America to effectively use deliberations in their classrooms.
The program year kicked off last August with a professional development institute in Lima, Peru. It continued with international site visits, where teachers saw their partner schools in action, and a teleconference that brought students together to deliberate whether violent juvenile offenders should be punished as adults. The year culminated in June when participating teachers gathered in Chicago to share program successes and challenges and discuss ways to sustain the program in the coming school year.
Deliberating in a Democracy in the Americas was formally evaluated by the University of Minnesota. Preliminary findings are indicative of success:
- 9,303 students participated in the Deliberating in a Democracy in the Americas program during this academic year. Students overwhelmingly enjoyed the classroom deliberations and developed a better understanding of the issues discussed.
- Over 80% of students felt more confident when talking about controversial issues with their peers. Students feel that they know more about political issues than most people their age and are able to understand most political issues. They also usually have something to say when political issues or problems are being discussed. When the students were able to interact with their partner country via technology, they said it helped them understand the perspectives of others outside their country.
- Almost all teachers agreed that the deliberations helped their students develop a deeper understanding of the issues, identify multiple perspectives, and respect others’ points of view. Teachers felt more comfortable guiding a class discussion on controversial topics, whereas some of them avoided controversial topics in the past.
- Most teachers agreed that they will continue using deliberations in their classrooms in future years.
(Reproduced with permission)