Citizenship education in the humanities and social sciences : effective experienced teachers' orientations to knowledge and practice

  • Geoff Taylor

Student thesis: Professional Doctorate


This qualitative study investigated the relationship between the personal factors of effective experienced teachers and the teaching of the values-laden subject of Citizenship Education in the Australian Curriculum. It asked the question: How are the orientations of effective experienced teachers related to their knowledge and practice in Citizenship Education? A combined model of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) was used to operationalise the teaching of Citizenship Education (CE) in an empirical study that used cycles of research that resembled an adaptation of practical action research models, as well as phenomenographic analysis (PA), and dialogical interviews. Participants were effective experienced Year 7 to 10 Humanities and Social Science (HaSS) teachers in the Australian Capital Territory.
This thesis argues that it is the personal knowledge and qualities of teachers that allow them to move toward sustainably and maximally activating CE in the classroom. In the face of system constraints, teachers can activate CE in the classroom through the key psychological mechanism of their CE orientations, and in doing so overcome some, but not necessarily all, constraints that in combination present as a teaching conundrum in many contexts. Teacher CE orientations, which are deeply held beliefs and values that implicitly guide CE in the classroom, can actualise to varying degrees a teacher’s strengths, personal capacities, dispositions and ‘humanising’ capabilities. This allows teachers to better model what they may espouse in CE and, when demonstrating this integrity in their teaching, to transform their teaching in the classroom. This can positively influence their students to start finding their own orientations to the subject and a range of citizenship issues and in turn for teachers to be influenced by them.
The implications of this research are that teachers’ CE orientations can have an impact beyond an outward influence on knowledge and practice, to positively and inwardly impact CE teacher professionalism, a sense of identity, and how teachers categorise and regulate themselves in the classroom. However, the outcomes of the research also showed that teachers think that being restricted to teaching CE in the classroom constrains a fuller influence of their CE orientations, their sense of self as a CE teacher and therefore the students’ sense of themselves as citizens and contributing members of society.
This thesis stands as an in-depth and rich study of experienced teachers’ (and therefore insiders’) views of teaching Active Citizenship Education (ACE) in the Australian classroom, one avenue for mastering (or ‘aceing’) the teaching of HaSS related subjects. Through a deep exploration of teacher thinking about CE, an intimate view is gained of the personal knowledge of effective experienced teachers as they teach ACE in HaSS host subjects. The practical significance of this study is that detailed descriptions and explanations of ACE are necessary especially in the early stages of curriculum implementation and when revisions have been made to assist further development and refinement of the curriculum. The key contributions to the literature include identifying, describing and explaining the relationship between the key psychological mechanism of CE orientations and knowledge and practice and elaborating on the nature of ACE by providing a detailed contemporary portrait of it in the Australian classroom.
Date of Award2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Canberra
SupervisorJanet Smith (Supervisor) & Josephine Caffery (Supervisor)

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