The effects of civic education on political knowledge. A two year panel survey among Belgian adolescents

Article

Abstract

Traditionally political knowledge was regarded as an important potential outcome for civic education efforts. Most of the currently available research, however, tends to focus on non-cognitive goals, despite the fact that studies repeatedly have shown that political knowledge is an important resource for enlightened and engaged citizenship. In this article, we investigate whether civic education efforts at school contribute to political knowledge levels. The analysis is based on the Belgian Political Panel Survey, a 2 year panel study among 2,988 Belgian late adolescents. The analysis shows that experiences with group projects at school contribute significantly to political knowledge levels 2 years later on. Furthermore, we can observe an interaction effect as those who are already most knowledgeable about politics, gain most from these group projects. Classes about politics, on the other hand, did not have an effect on knowledge levels. In the discussion, it is argued that civic education can have strong cognitive effects, but that these effects are not always related to classical civic education efforts and we discussion the policy implication for civic education.

Keywords

Civic education Political knowledge Panel research Belgium Adolescents 

Notes

Acknowledgement

Ruth Dassonneville would like to acknowledge the generous support she received as a PhD candidate for the Flemish Research Fund (FWO-Flanders, Belgium). The authors thank the reviewers of this journal for their constructive suggestions.

References

  1. Althaus, S. (2003). Collective preferences in democratic politics. Opinion surveys and the will of the people. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andersen, R., Tilley, J., & Heath, A. (2005). Political knowledge and enlightened preferences: party choice through the electoral cycle. British Journal of Political Science, 35(2), 285–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson, L., & Krathwohl, D. (Eds.). (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Longman.Google Scholar
  4. Bennett, S. (1988). ‘Know-Nothings’ revisited. The meaning of political ignorance today. Social Science Quarterly, 69, 476–490.Google Scholar
  5. Bloom, B. (1976). Human characteristics and school learning. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  6. Campbell, D. (2008). Voice in the classroom: how an open classroom climate fosters political engagement among adolescents. Political Behavior, 30(4), 437–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Campbell, D., & Wolbrecht, C. (2006). See Jane run: women politicians as role models for adolescents. Journal of Politics, 68(2), 233–245.Google Scholar
  8. Choma, B., & Hafer, C. (2009). Understanding the relation between explicitly and implicitly measured political orientation. The moderating role of political sophistication. Personality and Individual Differences, 47(8), 964–967.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Claes, E., Hooghe, M., & Stolle, D. (2009). The political socialization of adolescents in Canada. Differential effects of civic education on visible minorities. Canadian Journal of Political Science, 42(3), 613–636.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Converse, P. (1964). The nature of belief systems in mass publics. In D. Apter (Ed.), Ideology and discontent (pp. 206–261). Glencoe: Free.Google Scholar
  11. Dalton, R. (2000). Citizen attitudes and political behavior. Comparative Political Studies, 33(6–7), 912–940.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dassonneville, R. (2012). Electoral volatility, political sophistication, trust and efficacy: a study on changes in voter preferences during the Belgian regional elections of 2009. Acta Politica, 48, in press.Google Scholar
  13. Delli Carpini, M., & Keeter, S. (1991). Stability and change in the U.S. public’s knowledge of politics. Public Opinion Quarterly, 55(4), 583–612.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Delli Carpini, M., & Keeter, S. (1996). What Americans know about politics and why it matters. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Dow, J. (2011). Political knowledge and electoral choice in the 1992–2004 United States Presidential Elections. Are more and less informed citizens distinguishable? Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties, 21(3), 381–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Green, D., Aronow, P., Bergan, D., Greene, P., Paris, C., & Weinberger, B. (2011). Does knowledge of constitutional principles increase support for civil liberties? Results from a randomized field experiment. Journal of Politics, 73(2), 463–476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hart, D., Donnelly, T., Youniss, J., & Atkins, R. (2007). High school community service as a predictor of adult voting and volunteering. American Education Research Journal, 44(1), 197–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Highton, B. (2009). Revisiting the relationship between educational attainment and political sophistication. Journal of Politics, 71(4), 1564–1576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hooghe, M., Quintelier, E., & Reeskens, T. (2007). How political is the personal? Gender differences in the level and the structure of political knowledge. Journal of Women, Politics & Policy, 28(2), 115–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hooghe, M., Quintelier, E., Claes, E., & Dejaeghere, Y. (2009). Technical report of the Belgian Political Panel Study (BPPS, 2006–2008). Leuven: University of Leuven.Google Scholar
  21. Hooghe, M., Vissers, S., Stolle, D., & Valérie-Anne, M. (2010). The potential of internet mobilization. An experimental study on the effect of internet and face-to-face mobilization efforts. Political Communication, 27(4), 406–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hox, J. (2010). Multilevel analysis. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Jennings, M. K. (1996). Political knowledge over time and across generations. Public Opinion Quarterly, 60(2), 228–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kahne, J., Chi, B., & Middaugh, E. (2006). Building social capital for civic and political engagement: the potential of high school civics courses. Canadian Journal of Education, 29(2), 387–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lachat, R. (2007). A heterogeneous electorate: Political sophistication, predisposition strength, and the voting decision process. Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlag.Google Scholar
  26. Langton, K., & Jennings, M. K. (1968). Political socialization and the high schools civics curriculum. American Political Science Review, 62, 862–867.Google Scholar
  27. Larcinese, V. (2007). Does political knowledge increase turnout? Evidence from the 1997 British general election. Public Choice, 131(3), 387–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Luskin, R. (1987). Measuring political sophistication. American Journal of Political Science, 31(4), 856–899.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Michaud, K., Carlisle, J., & Smith, E. (2009). The relationship between cultural values and political ideology, and the role of political knowledge. Political Psychology, 30(1), 27–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Miller, M., & Orr, S. (2008). Experimenting with a “Third Way” in political knowledge estimation. Public Opinion Quarterly, 72(4), 768–780.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Milner, H. (2002). Civic literacy: How informed citizens make democracy work. Hanover: University Press of New England.Google Scholar
  32. Mondak, J. (2001). Developing valid knowledge scales. American Journal of Political Science, 45(1), 224–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nie, N., Junn, J., & Stehlik-Barry, K. (1996). Education and democratic citizenship in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  34. Niemi, R., & Junn, J. (1998). Civic education: What makes students learn. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Ondercin, H., & Jones-White, D. (2011). Gender Jeopardy. What is the impact of gender differences in political knowledge on political participation? Social Science Quarterly, 92(3), 675–694.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Popkin, S., & Dimock, M. (2000). Knowledge, trust and international reasoning. In A. Lupia, S. Popkin, & M. McCubbins (Eds.), Elements of reason. Cognition, choice and the bounds of rationality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Prior, M., & Lupia, A. (2008). Money, time, and political knowledge: distinguishing quick recall and political learning skills. American Journal of Political Science, 52(1), 169–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Scheerens, J. (2011). Indicators on informal learning for active citizenship at school. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 23(3), 201–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sidanius, J., & Lau, R. (1989). Political sophistication and political deviance: a matter of context. Political Psychology, 10(1), 85–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Slavin, R. (1994). Cooperative learning. Theory, research, and practice. Boston: Alwyn & Beacon.Google Scholar
  41. Sturgis, P., Allum, N., & Smith, P. (2008). The measurement of political knowledge in surveys. Public Opinion Quarterly, 72(1), 90–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Tavits, M. (2006). Making democracy work more? Exploring the linkage between social capital and government performance. Political Research Quarterly, 59(2), 211–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tilley, J., & Wlezien, C. (2008). Does political information matter? An experimental test relating to party positions on Europe. Political Studies, 56(1), 192–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Torney-Purta, J. (1997). Links and missing links between education, political knowledge, and citizenship. American Journal of Education, 105, 446–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Torney-Purta, J. (2001). What adolescents know about citizenship and democracy. Educational Leadership, 59(4), 45–50.Google Scholar
  46. Wolak, J., & McDevitt, M. (2011). The roots of the gender gap in political knowledge in adolescence. Political Behavior, 33(3), 505–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Youniss, J., McLellan, J., & Yates, M. (1997). What we know about engendering civic identity. American Behavioral Scientist, 40(5), 620–631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Youniss, J., & Yates, M. (1997). Community service and social responsibility in youth. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

Personalised recommendations