June 17, 2013
The Deliberating in a Democracy program concluded in 2013, after nine years of connecting students around the globe and teaching them how to deliberate public policy issues. The program was a collaborative effort of Street Law, Inc., Constitutional Rights Foundation, and Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago and was funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students.
Since it began in 2004, nearly 30,000 students in the United States, Latin America, Central/Eastern Europe, and North/Western Asia have engaged in civic deliberations with their classmates and with each other through videoconferences.
Along with its partner organizations, Street Law trained more than 500 teachers to effectively use deliberations in their classrooms and developed deliberation lesson plans on 38 controversial issues in multiple languages. Many participating teachers had the opportunity to visit their international partner schools and observe deliberations in action in foreign classrooms.
A multi-year formal evaluation of the program was conducted by the University of Minnesota. The 2013 report, which focused on the program’s performance in the Western Hemisphere, found that over 90% of teachers agreed or strongly agreed that deliberations helped their students achieve the following:
- develop a deeper understanding of issues (96%)
- engage in critical thinking (94%)
- make decisions based on evidence and logic (93%)
- respect others’ points of view (91%)
- identify multiple perspectives associated with the deliberation topics (94%)
Even though the Deliberating in a Democracy program is ending, the program website will live on! Teachers can access classroom-ready lessons, supplemental materials, and the deliberation steps. In addition, a Teacher Tips page was added that includes instructional videos and information on aligning deliberations to the Common Core State Standards.
(Reproduced with permission)