Master Nora Elise Hesby Mathé
Democracy and politics in upper secondary social studies. Students' perceptions of democracy, politics, and citizenship preparation.
The purpose of this thesis in social studies didactics is to investigate three aspects of democracy and politics in social studies education in upper secondary school in Norway.
This is an article-based thesis comprised of three articles and an extended abstract. The overarching aim of my thesis is to investigate 16 – 17- year old students’ perceptions of the core concepts of democracy and politics and aspects of citizenship preparation in the social studies subject in Norwegian upper secondary school. The PhD project consisted of three separate, but interrelated phases, focused on 16 – 17- year old students’1) understanding of the concept of democracy (Article I), 2) perceptions of the concept of politics (Article II), and 3) perceptions of citizenship preparation in social studies and factors associated with these (Article III). To collect data, I conducted focus groups with a total of 23 students; individual interviews with nine students, and a quantitative survey with 264 students. The data material consists of interview and focus group transcripts, as well as survey data. I used citizenship education and political theory to analyse students’ perceptions.
In Article I, I found that students’ understanding of democracy centered around four themes: (a) rule by the people, (b) voting and elections, (c) other forms of participation, and (d) rights and responsibilities. In Article II, the main findings were that students perceived politics as concerning three main aspects: (a) ruling a country, (b) shaping society, and (c) discussion and debates, and that they expressed three conceptions of the relationship between people and politics, labelled Engagement, Passivity, and Detachment. In Article III, the analyses revealed that students’ reported enjoyment of social studies and the teacher’s instruction were most strongly associated with their perceptions of citizenship preparation. These findings are valuable for understanding young people’s perceptions and for developing social studies education and didactics sensitive to students’ perspectives.
The work with this thesis was conducted at the Department of teacher education and school research, Faculty of Education, at the University of Oslo.