Deliberation in citizenship education
How the school context contributes to the development of an open classroom climate
Schools are expected to contribute to preparing students for engaged citizenship. Research shows that open classroom discussions on political issues have a positive effect on political attitudes and behaviour. However, a deeper understanding of why students perceive their classrooms as open for discussion is missing. The purpose of this study is to examine how deliberative democratic theory can be used to explain such perceptions. We argue that the openness of the discussion climate is positively affected by, on the one hand, a context of good student–teacher relations characterised by fairness and respect, and, on the other hand, by the level of collective efficacy, which is the perception of responsiveness of the school towards student demands. Using multilevel analyses on the European data of the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS 2009), we find that these predictors are significant at the student level and the school level. This means that both the individual experience of a student as well as the average school’s score on good student–teacher relations and collective efficacy affect how students perceive the discussion climate. Our findings, based on high-quality survey data from 22 countries, are a significant contribution to clarifying the underlying mechanism leading to an open classroom climate. As such discussions have proven to be an effective way to stimulate political engagement, we conclude that a school context characterised by fairness and responsiveness, should not be overlooked by schools and policy.