PublicationsSystematic reviewsCitizenship education and schoolingcitizenship education and schooling - summary
A systematic review of the impact of citizenship education on the provision of schooling. Summary


The concepts of citizenship education used in this review are drawn from the definition of citizenship education provided by Crick (1998) and the policy framework for Citizenship Education in England, which became enshrined in National Curriculum documentation in 2000. The policy framework identifies three broad educational aims for citizenship: the moral and social development of students; political literacy; and community involvement. The framework focuses on the development of particular skills, attitudes and values across the whole of the curriculum. Research evidence to date suggests that there is a gap in professional knowledge about the implementation of Citizenship Education and its relationship with the core tasks of schooling - that is, learning and achievement - as well as with the processes and structures of schools as learning communities. This gap provided a rationale for a review of citizenship education at this time as did current interest in Citizenship Education in England, and indeed, in the four nations of the UK, where approaches differ. It was intended, however, that the review would also draw widely upon international research and that its key findings would be generally relevant.

Aims of the review

The aims of the review were to identify empirical evidence that can inform the manner in which citizenship education is implemented in schools, particularly in relation to curriculum content, pedagogy, leadership and management, school ethos and community relations. The implications of this were considered by the Review Group to be critical for informing policy and practice in teacher education.

Review questions

The main review question was:

  • What is the impact of citizenship education on the provision of schooling?

Where provision of schooling is made up of:

  • learning and teaching
  • school context and ethos
  • leadership and management
  • curriculum construction and development
  • external relations and community

In order to achieve all of the aims of the review, an additional question was asked of the review's findings:

  • What are the implications of the findings of the review for teacher education?


The search strategy led to 301 studies being found by electronic database searches. Further studies were found by other sources, for example, by handsearching journals. One set of inclusion and exclusion criteria was used for this review. These criteria were systematically applied to studies found by database searches and to studies identified by handsearching a large number of journals. Reviewers were over-inclusive at the initial screening. Review-specific and general keywords were then applied to all studies thought to meet the inclusion and exclusion criteria and each study was checked again against the criteria. A total of 14 studies ultimately met the criteria and were included in the in-depth review.


The 14 studies selected for the in-depth review represented a range of study types and addressed the whole range of types of citizenship education and aspects of school provision. The studies also addressed a full range of curriculum subjects and phases of education.

In order to report findings relevant to these questions, the studies were grouped according to their relevance to the following six themes:

  • learning and teaching
  • curriculum construction and development
  • school ethos and context
  • leadership and management
  • external relations and community
  • teacher learning, knowledge and practice.

The combined findings relating to these themes were as follows:

  • The quality of dialogue and discourse is central to learning in citizenship education.
  • Dialogue and discourse are connected with learning about shared values, human rights and issues of justice and equality.
  • A facilitative, conversational pedagogy may challenge existing power/ authority structures.
  • Transformative, dialogical and participatory pedagogies complement and sustain achievement rather than divert attention from it.
  • Such pedagogies require a quality of teacher-pupil relationships that is inclusive and respectful.
  • Students should be empowered to voice their views and to name and make meaning from their life experiences.
  • Contextual knowledge and problem-based thinking can lead to (citizenship) engagement and action.
  • Engagement of students in citizenship education requires educational experiences that are challenging, attainable and relevant to students' lives and narratives.
  • Opportunities should be made for students to engage with values issues embedded in all curriculum subjects and experiences.
  • A coherent whole-school strategy, including a community-owned values framework, is a key part of leadership for citizenship education.
  • Participative and democratic processes in school leadership require particular attitudes and skills on the part of teachers and students.
  • Listening to the voice of the student leads to positive relationships, an atmosphere of trust and increased participation. It may require many teachers to 'let go of control'.
  • Teachers require support to develop appropriate professional skills to engage in discourse and dialogue to facilitate citizenship education.
  • Strategies for consensual change have to be identified by, and developed in, educational leaders.
  • Schools often restrict participation by students in shaping institutional practices but expect them to adhere to policies, and this can be counterproductive to the core messages of citizenship education.


The evidence gathered by this review process makes a significant contribution to knowledge about the implementation of citizenship education, for policy, practice and research.

Implications for policy

  • The implications of the review for policy are significant for teacher education and professional learning. This learning has to do with three main facets of professional education:
    • the development of a set of values consistent with a vision for citizenship education.
    • the development of a body of knowledge relevant for being an educator in contemporary society - knowledge concerned with ethical understanding and processes of social change.
    • the development of professional skills around a pedagogy for citizenship education, including an awareness of educational policies and practices which support inclusion and the involvement of every child in the learning process.

          These three themes are inter-related.

  • Genuine participation in the learning process by teachers and students requires school-based decision making and this is likely to lead to local differences, requiring a policy that encourages diversity rather than uniformity.
  • Citizenship education requires teachers to use and trust their own professional judgement, working within a culture of professional responsibility rather than only within a culture of technical accountability.

Implications for practice

  • Citizenship education should be an intrinsic part of whole-school development planning and citizenship education should be an integral part of the core task of schooling.
  • Citizenship education requires a focus on higher order critical and creative thinking skills and the processes of learning itself, including the quality of relationships and dialogue.
  • The structures of the curriculum, together with its assessment requirements, should support and enhance a learner-centred approach which honours student voices; develops positive interpersonal relationships; stimulates higher order thinking; and caters for individual differences.

Implications for research

  • There is a significant gap in the body of available empirical research that addresses the implementation of citizenship education at a school level.
  • Making decisions about the quality of research in citizenship education is problematic and there is a need for greater rigour and awareness relating to matters of quality and value.


Crick B (1998) Education for Citizenship and the Teaching of Democracy in Schools: Final report of the Advisory Group on Citizenship. London: Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA).

This report should be cited as: Deakin Crick R, Coates M, Taylor M, Ritchie S (2004) A systematic review of the impact of citizenship education on the provision of schooling. In: Research Evidence in Education Library. London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London. 

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