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Democratic classroom practices are all strategies adopted by classroom teachers to actively engage students in the learning processes. Considerable literature assessing influence of Civic Education on youths’ active participation in a democratic society exists. Not much have reported an empirically conducted study on classroom best practices adopted by Civic Education teachers in the Global South. This paper examines classroom democratization by Civic Education teachers in South East Nigeria, students’ and teachers’ perceptions of democratic classroom, and challenges confronting classroom democratization. Focus Group Discussion and Democratic classroom questionnaire were used to elicit information from 151 civic education teachers and 1400 senior secondary school one (SS1) students. Findings revealed that Civic Education teachers in South East Nigeria adopted democratic classroom practices marginally. Recommendation includes more adoption of democratic classroom best practices for development of students’ critical thinking abilities, preparing them to become participatory in their civic duties and reducing crimes among today’s youths.
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Cogent Education
ISSN: (Print) (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/oaed20
Assessing democratic classroom practices among
secondary school civic education teachers in the
global south: case study of South East Nigeria
Cresantus N. Biamba, Obioha N. Chidimma, Ogunji V. Chinwe, Mezieobi C.
Kelechi & Nwajiuba A. Chinyere |
To cite this article: Cresantus N. Biamba, Obioha N. Chidimma, Ogunji V. Chinwe, Mezieobi
C. Kelechi & Nwajiuba A. Chinyere | (2021) Assessing democratic classroom practices among
secondary school civic education teachers in the global south: case study of South East Nigeria,
Cogent Education, 8:1, 1896425, DOI: 10.1080/2331186X.2021.1896425
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/2331186X.2021.1896425
© 2021 The Author(s). This open access
article is distributed under a Creative
Commons Attribution (CC-BY) 4.0 license.
Published online: 29 Mar 2021.
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TEACHER EDUCATION & DEVELOPMENT | RESEARCH ARTICLE
Assessing democratic classroom practices among
secondary school civic education teachers in the
global south: case study of South East Nigeria
Cresantus N. Biamba
1,2
*, Obioha N. Chidimma
2
, Ogunji V. Chinwe
2
, Mezieobi C. Kelechi
2
and
Nwajiuba A. Chinyere
2
Abstract: Democratic classroom practices are all strategies adopted by classroom
teachers to actively engage students in the learning processes. Considerable lit-
erature assessing influence of Civic Education on youths’ active participation in
a democratic society exists. Not much have reported an empirically conducted
study on classroom best practices adopted by Civic Education teachers in the Global
South. This paper examines classroom democratization by Civic Education teachers
in South East Nigeria, students’ and teachers’ perceptions of democratic classroom,
and challenges confronting classroom democratization. Focus Group Discussion and
Democratic classroom questionnaire were used to elicit information from 151 civic
education teachers and 1400 senior secondary school one (SS1) students. Findings
revealed that Civic Education teachers in South East Nigeria adopted democratic
classroom practices marginally. Recommendation includes more adoption of
democratic classroom best practices for development of students’ critical thinking
abilities, preparing them to become participatory in their civic duties and reducing
crimes among today’s youths.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cresantus Biamba is Associate Professor in
Education at the Department of Educational
Sciences, Faculty of Education and Business
Studies, University of Gavle and has extensive
research expertise and a continuing active
interest in the areas of school leadership, orga-
nizational change and culture, school effective-
ness and improvement, staff development, civic
education and democracy, education for sus-
tainable development and higher education
policy and Internationalization. He holds
a Ph.D. in International and Comparative
Education, from the Institute of International
Education, Stockholm University, Sweden.
Chidimma Nwadiuto Obioha is Assistant Lecturer
of Sociology of Education Foundation, Alex-
Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike (AE-
FUNAI). Having graduated with a master’s
degree in Education Sociology (M.Ed), she has
keen interest in the research areas of
Democracy in Education, capacity building needs
in students and influence on career
aspirations.
PUBLIC INTEREST STATEMENT
Civic Education is a core subject offered to senior
secondary school students in Nigeria. Research
reveals that the subject can translate into trans-
formed behavior and active engagement of citi-
zens in civic responsibilities. Against this backdrop
of great benefits from learning civic education,
this study sought to investigate the democratic
classroom practices employed by secondary
school civic education teachers in the South
Eastern Nigeria educational context. Students and
teachers’ perspectives of classroom democratiza-
tion and the challenges facing application of
democratic practices were identified in the study.
Two sets of questionnaire and focus group dis-
cussions (FGD) were used for data collection.
Quantitative data were analyzed using frequency
and percentages. The significance was tested
using an independent sample t-test. Three core
concepts were identified from the thematic ana-
lysis. Result revealed lack of freedom in the
classroom which may have contributed to the
marginal level of democratic practices in
classrooms.
Biamba et al., Cogent Education (2021), 8: 1896425
https://doi.org/10.1080/2331186X.2021.1896425
Page 1 of 13
Received: 31 October 2020
Accepted: 15 February 2021
*Corresponding author: Cresantus
N. Biamba Department of
Educational Sciences, Hogskolan
I Gavle, Sweden
E-mail: cresantus.biamba@hig.se
Reviewing editor:
Michael William Dunn, Education,
Washington State University
Vancouver, United States
Additional information is available at
the end of the article
© 2021 The Author(s). This open access article is distributed under a Creative Commons
Attribution (CC-BY) 4.0 license.
Subjects: Secondary Education; Teachers & Teacher Education; Classroom Practice;
Education Policy & Politics
Keywords: Democracy; civic education; classroom practices and teachers
1. Introduction
One of the active concepts and approaches in education which has been stressed over the years by
research is democratic classroom environment (Ahmad et al., 2015). The concept of democratic
classroom environment is attributed to the educational reformer “John Dewey” and his philoso-
phical thoughts which staunchly support freedom and democracy in education (Louis, 2003).
Dewey asserted that the basic aim of education is to produce, active, participative and contributory
citizen leaders for the society hence his advocacy for democracy in education if this goal must be
actualized.
Democratic classroom is a safe and cooperative classroom environment where students find
better opportunity to make choices, to speak and feel encouraged to participate in the discussions
and to make contributions (Pane, 2010). This type of classroom is fundamentally called an
engaged classroom. SunyCortland (2015) has equally outlined various definitions of democratic
classroom practices. Two out of them which formed the foundations of this study defined demo-
cratic classroom practices: firstly,“as one involving students on a regularly and in developmentally
appropriate ways in shared decision-making increasing their obligation for helping to make the
classroom a good place to be and learn”; secondly “as one which provides an ongoing forum where
students’ thoughts are valued and where any need of the group can be addressed”. From the
foregoing, democratic classroom can be operationally defined as one which actively engages the
students so as to produce well-equipped and character transformed citizens of a country.
Emphasis on the institutionalization of democratic classrooms around the globe is fast-gaining
momentum. Thus, the implicit and explicit need to stress democratic values and engagement in
education in order to sustain democracy becomes imperative. Over the years, the democratic class-
rooms have been used for various purposes such as civic education, character education, group
learning and moral development and so on (Tonga, 2014). Young people learn the way to contribute
to their society through formal and informal learning experiences in schools (F Reichert & Print, 2018).
Supposedly, teachers are the ultimate instruments of such learning and change. What a teacher
believes about self, context, content, specific teaching practices, teaching approach, and students
plays a role in teaching. Unfortunately, scholars who have studied through varied theoretical lens
(Apple & Beaner, 2007; Nichols & Beliner, 2007) asserted that public schools today are more concerned
about the production of proficient test scores on state mandated standardized tests than putting
democracy into practice. Consensus opinion among them is that high-stakes reforms of public schools
have driven them far away from democratic practices. Yet, retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra
Day O’Connor clearly noted citizenship as a habit that must be learnt, and declared that public schools
were established to educate students for democratic involvement (Barnes, 2011).
Active, effective and knowledgeable citizens who are eager to take charge for themselves as well as
their societies and partake in political processes so as to develop the societies are highly needed for
growth (Ünal & Kaygın, 2020). Citizenship education seeks to educate citizens who will be free to make
their own judgments and hold their own convictions (UNESCO, 2010). Such individuals are produced for
their society by industries, such as the educational institutions (Ahmad et al., 2015; Buchholz, 2013).
Citizenship education should be transformative (Banks, 2017) and transformative civic education will
develop citizens who critically reflect on societal issues. In light of the above-stated (UNESCO, 2010)
objectives of teaching Citizenship education among which includes; learning to exercise one’s judg-
ment and critical faculty and acquiring a sense of individual and community responsibilities.
Democracy has been identified as one idea inherent in civic education. This is because it concerns
politics and institutions (UNESCO, 2010). Democracy hinges on faith in the pride and worth of every
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individual as a human being. Thus, contemporary teaching and learning of Civic Education should
revolve around giving students the opportunity to learn at their own pace. Students should actively
participate through dialogues, collaborations, contributions, engaging in discussions with teachers
and their fellow students. Classroom discussion is intended to arouse students to develop their own
personal viewpoints on issues at hand. Thus, Schuitema et al. (2018) posited that opportunities
should be created for all students to express their points of view, though such classroom interactions
should be steered by the teacher to ensure a convinced quality of discussion.
It is imperative that Civic Education teachers should possess democratic values such as freedom,
equality and justice, autonomy, cooperation, shared decision-making, and a sense of community
(Kincal & Isik, 2003). The crux of these values is mostly to guide teaching and learning in order to
form a varied and unbiased learning community in the classroom (Trafford, 2008); this is in
essence democratic classroom practices. The teacher’s part must be less dictative so as to make
room for the students’ perceptions (Schuitema, Radstake, Van de Pol &Veugelers, 2018). Giving
students freedom and choice will benefit the society by developing people who are open to change
and to listening to others so that everyone will consider him/herself vital to society (Morrisson,
2008). Students in such a democratic class become concerned for one another and they may be
helped to build bridges among themselves (Parker, 2010). Every person must be esteemed,
listened to and be actively involved in the learning and decision-making processes in education.
Quality civic education “not only increases citizenship knowledge and engagement, but also
expands civic equality, improves twenty-first century skills, and may reduce the dropout rate and
improve school climate (Guilfoile & Delander, 2014:3) as real-world civic learning chances advance
students’ chances of staying in school.
Democratic classroom practices have been consistently ignored in schools, thus using
a structural equation model, Knowles (2017) concluded that teacher- and text-centered modes
of instruction (e.g., lectures, completing worksheets) are more frequently used by the old-
fashioned teachers. Corroborating this, Magasu et al. (2020) have reported that secondary school
teachers are still teaching Civic Education using teacher-centered (traditional model) strategies
despite policy direction and current changes in curriculum and technology (Martens & Jason,
2013). According to Guilfoile and Delander (2014:4), the most commonly used traditional method
of instruction by these educators is lecture method where students spent more of their time
listening to their instructors’ reiterations from a text, learn by heart important dates and facts . . .
The authors reiterated that traditional teaching styles which have constantly been preferred by
Civic teachers contribute a little to stimulate creativity in students’ minds. This is due to the usual
perception of teachers as authorities on the subject matter at hand (Hand & Levinson, 2012) and
intention to control the content of classroom interaction (Molinari et al., 2013). In such a learning
environment invariably, students cannot freely express their minds and thoughts or engage in
critical thinking in the absence of interactions with fellow students.
Empirical research regarding democratic practices in the Civic Education classroom in Nigeria
is still in its infancy. However, an extent of literature has shown that civic education teachers in
the Eastern countries of the world apply different types of teaching methods in the classroom.
A student data finding revealed that classroom climates are open for discussion (Knowles et al.,
2018). The classroom in addition allows respectful questioning of ideas which are effective in
promoting positive civic development. It was also reported that Nordic teachers were likely to
negotiate with students about what was to be learned, while teachers from the Czech Republic
were more restrictive (V. B. Reichert & Torney-Purta, 2019). Martens and Jason (2013) reported
that four broad teaching approaches were employed by social studies teachers in America. They
are traditional teaching (use of methods including textbook reading, worksheets, memorization),
video teaching, active learning, and maintenance of an open classroom climate. The research-
ers’ analysis indicated that methods fostering an open classroom climate (i.e., encouraging
students’ input) in combination with traditional teaching, video teaching, active learning
seems to be the most fruitful across the board. Furthermore, they posited that any combination
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including an open classroom climate maximizes benefit while traditional combined with an
open classroom climate seems to do the best.
In the debate on the purpose of education, some research has focused on the “decline of civic
education and the willingness of young people to assume active citizenship roles” (Cooperation for
National and Community Service [NCNC 2005:1])
A country that has her larger number of youths as school dropouts is bound to experience increase
in social vices such as kidnapping, cultism, obtaining by tricks (419), armed robbery, raping, etc.
According to the latest report on schooling status of Nigerian youths aged 5–24 years, the percentage
of youth who are no more schooling increases steadily up to the age of 24 years (National Population
Commission (Nigeria) & RTI International, 2016:11). This trend reflects the lower participation rates in
senior secondary and tertiary education. Some products of today’s secondary education system are
passive citizens who lack critical thinking, questioning, decision-making and problem-solving skills
required for survival in this twenty-first century. They are products who are unable to respect the
views and feelings of others, citizens who are democratically ineffective and less engaged in Civic
activities, deep into destructive behaviors leading to dropping out of school. No value is attached to
the dignity of labor except for things that will give them quick money. The fear here is that illiterate
population of youths may likely become a fruitful ground for tribalism, fanaticism, terrorism and
criminal acts perpetrated by public secondary schools. There is, therefore, a need to examine the
democratic classroom practices employed by senior secondary civic education teachers in South-East
geopolitical zone of Nigeria. Exploring the democratic classroom practices adopted by Civic Education
teachers strengthens the need and importance of incorporating the most appropriate teaching
methods so as to produce citizens who shall be equipped with problem-solving skills necessary for
success in this twenty-first century. It is in light of this, that this study is set to assess the democratic
classroom practices among senior secondary Civic Education teachers in South-East geopolitical zone
of Nigeria
1.1. Purpose of the study
The main purpose of this study was to assess the democratic classroom practices among senior
secondary Civic Education teachers in South-East geopolitical zone of Nigeria. The study will
specifically
(1) Assess the level to which Civic Education teachers in South-East geo-political zone of Nigeria
apply democratic practices (collaboration, freedom, critical thinking, and decision-making)
(2) Assess students’perception of a democratic classroom.
(3) Examine teacher’s perception of a democratic classroom practice.
(4) Identify what constraints are confronting civic education teachers in practicing democracy
in the classroom based on Teachers Perspective.
1.2. Research questions
The following research questions were posed to guide the study:
1. To what level do Civic Education teachers in southeast geo-political zone of Nigeria apply
democratic practices (collaboration, freedom, critical thinking, and decision-making)
2. What is the students’ perception about democratic practices that should be employed in Civic
Education classrooms in South East Nigeria?
3. What is teachers’ perception of a democratic classroom practice?
4. What are the constraints of civic education teachers in practicing democracy in the classroom
based on Teachers Perspective?
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1.3. Hypothesis
A null hypothesis was formulated and tested at 0.05 level of significance;
HO1: There is no significant difference in both students and teachers’ perception about demo-
cratic classroom practices
2. Methodology
This study assessed the level of democratic classroom practices adopted by Civic Education
teachers in South East Nigeria. This section gives details of the sample size and sampling techni-
ques, method of data collection and method of data analysis.
The study adopted a mixed method of quantitative and qualitative approaches to address the
objectives of the study. The instruments for data collection were two sets of Democratic Classroom
Questionnaire (DCQ) containing different questions for the teachers and students. The instrument had
two sections each. Section 1 elicited responses about their biodata while this section elicited
responses’ application of democratic classroom practices and perceptions. The items in the instrument
were adapted from already existing literature. Qualitative data were drawn from four focus groups
(FGDs). The instruments (DCQ for teachers and DCQ for students) were validated by three lecturers in
the Department of Arts and Humanities Education of Alex-Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu. Alike,
Abakaliki. Based on their recommendations, adjustments were made on the instruments. Face-to-face
pilot test of the survey instruments was conducted to evaluate their usability. The reliability of the
sampling was tested using standard analysis with Cronbach’s alpha. It yielded a coefficient reliability
index of 0. 82 (DCQ for teachers) and 0.70 (DCQ for students) showing an adequacy of the instruments.
The multistage sampling technique was employed during data collection. Civic Education teachers
and Senior Secondary One (SS1) students from randomly selected public secondary schools in the five
South Eastern states of Nigeria participated in the study. For sampling of students, three education
zones were randomly selected from each of the five SE states of Nigeria. Intact classes from four
urban schools were randomly selected in each zone while 120 students from the four schools of each
zone were selected making a total of 360 students from each state. This was done in four out of the
five states while in the fifth state, 260 students were selected from the three education zones. Greater
sample size came from the fifth state given that it was the Southeastern State with the largest
population. In total, a number of 1,700 students were selected and administered with the instrument.
Out of this number, only 1,400 students returned their questionnaires. Only urban schools were
selected given their easy access in terms of road network and larger population.
For selection of teachers, multistage sampling technique was adopted too in the five SE states.
Three education zones were randomly selected from each of the five SE states of Nigeria. From
each of the education zones of each state was selected five schools while 11 teachers were
randomly selected from the five schools of each zone making a total of 33 teachersfrom the
three selected education zones of each state. This was done in four out of the five states while in
the fifth state, 28 teachers were selected from the three education zones. In total, a number of
160 teachers were selected and administered with the instrument. Coincidentally only 151 ques-
tionnaires were returned. The rationale for choice of South East Nigeria was for convenience in
data collection as it is not feasible to cover the entire federation.
Descriptive statistics, frequency counts and percentages were used to answer the research
questions while Independent t-Test was used to test the Null Hypothesis. Thematic analysis was
used to analyze qualitative data. Due to COVID-19 outbreak and near closure of schools, a large
number of students had remained absent from school within the days schools were visited for an
oral interview. As such, only group of four students from each selected school was purposefully
selected and interviewed to get a quick overview on what their perceptions are about teachers and
classroom democratic practices. The interviewees were promised that their responses were to be
kept confidential for research purposes. With due permission granted by them, the interviews were
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recorded. Interviews lasted between 30 and 60 minutes. The recorded information was tran-
scribed. The researchers built meaning from student responses as themes were allowed to emerge
from the data (Patton, 2002). Afterwards, the researchers followed the analytical procedure
described by Rubin and Rubin (1995). Core concepts were identified at the first reading of the
transcribed information. There was a second reading which gave room for the revision of the core
concepts and concepts with common or similar ideas were grouped together as themes to reflect
the students’ perceptions on classroom democratization.
3. Results
Study assessed the level of democratic classroom practices adopted by Civic Education
teachers in South East Nigeria. This section presents findings/results on the level of classroom
democratization by teachers of Civic Education, students’ perception about democratization of
classroom, teachers’ perception of classroom democratization, challenges confronting teachers
in the process of democratization and result of comparison test of students and teachers’
perception levels.
3.1 Background information of respondents
Table 1 shows that a total number of 800 male and 600 female students were interviewed from
the 60 randomly selected secondary schools. Similarly, a total number of 59 male teachers and 92
female teachers from randomly selected 75 schools were equally interviewed.
Table 2 shows an acceptable level of democratic practices by civic education teachers in South
East Nigeria. They apply the listed practices in their classroom with mean values above the
acceptable mean value of 2.50 and an aggregate mean value /standard deviation of 2.50 (0.39).
Table 3 reveals that civic education students in South East Nigeria support the adoption of
democratic practices in their classroom with a general perception mean of 3.80 and standard
deviation of 0.85. This indicates that students concurred with the idea of democratizing their
classrooms to enable them become actively involved.
Table 4 shows that civic education teachers in South East Nigeria possessed a positive percep-
tion of democratic classroom practices with an aggregate perception mean score of 3.97 and
a standard deviation of 0.37. This stemmed from the high mean score displayed across all factors
as indicated on the table.
Figure 1 reveals that the biggest challenge confronting Civic Education teachers is the feeling that
their power as a teacher may become jeopardized when they give students opportunity to actively
participate in the classroom with 146 (96.7%) of the teachers agreeing and strongly agreeing to that.
On the other hand, lack of competence on how to incorporate those democratic methods in the
classroom posed the least challenge to 126 (83.5%) teachers.
To find out if there is a significant difference between students and teachers’ perceptions on
classroom democratization, an independent sample t-test was done comparing their mean values.
Table 1. Total of male and female SS1 students, male and female teachers involved in the
study
Gender Students Teachers Total Percentage (%)
Male 800 59 859 55.4
Female 600 92 692 44.6
Total 1400 151 1551 100
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Table 5 shows the result of the research hypotheses. The result showed a significant value of
.193 which is greater than the 0.05 level of significance for the study. This shows that there is no
significant difference between the mean perception score of students and teachers on democratic
classroom practices.
The FGD revealed that beyond quantitative findings of rare adoption of democratic classroom
practices among Civic Education teachers, students would prefer adoption of these practices by
Table 2. Level of democratic practices (collaboration, freedom, critical thinking and decision-
making) applied in southeast Nigerian secondary schools
Component N M (SD) Lower Upper Sig
Freedom 1400 1.95 (0.81) 1.91 2.00
Collaboration 1400 2.53 (1.31) 2.48 2.58
Equality 1400 2.62 (1.39) 2.54 2.69
Decision Making 1400 2.88 (1.51) 2.83 2.92
General
Democracy
1400 2.50(0.39) 1.87 3.12 .001
Table 3. Responses of mean and standard deviation on students’ perception about democra-
tization of their classrooms
Component N M (SD) Lower Upper Sig
Freedom 1400 4.09 (1.31) 4.05 4.13
Active
Participation
1400 2.53 (1.31) 3.87 3.97
Generating
Ideas
1400 4.26 (1.08) 4.20 4.31
Classroom
Discussion
1400 4.30 (1.17) 4.24 4.36
General
Perception
1400 3.80 (0.85) 2.45 5.14 .003
Table 4. Result of mean and standard deviation analyses of Civic Education teacher’s per-
ception about democratic classroom practices
Component NM (SD) Lower Upper
I support classroom
democratic
practices
151 3.54 (1.58) 3.37 3.71
Democratic
classroom
promotes effective
learning
151 3.80 (1.47) 3.57 4.04
Democratic
classroom
enhances
performance
151 4.19 (1.13) 4.06 4.32
It equips them with
skills to defend their
rights
151 4.36 (0.92) 4.21 4.51
General Perception 151 3.97 (0.37) 3.38 4.56
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their teachers. This is evidenced in the three themes that emerged during the thematic analysis of
the focused group data. These themes are building consciousness and attentiveness, encouraging
cooperation, equity and fairness.
4. Building consciousness
One of the students had this to say:
As a student, I strongly believe that if our Civic Education teachers begin to adopt demo-
cratic practices when in the classroom, there will be difference in the way we feel . . . within
ourselves and even when we are with other students or other people. Because we know that
we may be expected to make a contribution in a discussion, we will always pay attention to
what is being talked about or discussed. We shall learn how to express ourselves outside our
classrooms, we shall develop the boldness to do this . . . simply because we have become
used to active participation during an on-going lesson in the classroom. But sometimes you
find out that what the teacher does in the class does not encourage active participation.
This also reflects in one participant’s comment:
In my own school, whenever it is Civic class, I begin to feel unhappy . . . because my teacher
makes it a dull moment for us all. She comes and dictates notes and sometimes reads from her
text book. She does not give you the opportunity to ask a question. Any attempt on the part of the
teacher to do so, she tells you that time is against her . . . and that she has another class
afterwards. She doesn’t even ask you any question on what she has taught. In this case, how will
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70
Q1
Q2
Q3
Q4
Q5
SD
D
U
A
SA
Figure 1. Constraints of practi-
cing democracy in the
classroom.
SD, Strongly Agree; D, Disagree;
U, Undecided; A, Agree; SA,
Strongly Agree. Q5= My power
as a teacher may become jeo-
pardized when I give students
opportunity to actively partici-
pate in the classroom. Q4=
Large class sizes can be a hin-
drance in practicing democracy
in the classroom. Q3= I don’t
know how to incorporate those
democratic methods in the
classroom. Q2= I don’t have
the patience to tolerate stu-
dents mistakes in the class-
room. Q1= The struggle to
finish my lesson within the
allotted time does not allow
me to apply those democratic
methods.
Table 5. Summary of t-test for significance between students and teachers’ mean perception
of democratic classroom practices
Respondents NMean SD df Std. Error tSig Decision
Teachers 151 3.97 .37 10.11 .46303 −.383 .193 Accept H0
1
Students 1400 3.80 .85
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the students learn since they are shut up, no discussion, no questioning etc.
5. Encouraging cooperation
Another student had this to say
. . . Sometimes in the class, every child turns into a one man-alone. I mean everyone on his or
her own business because the teacher does not allow us to talk to each other, or ask one
another question either on an area of confusion or something else. Students gradually are
lacking the skill for cooperation as a result of this. But if the teacher can begin to share us
into groups for probably group assignments, group discussions, numbered head together
activities or even jigsaw activities, then we shall gradually learn the cooperative skills which
will really be of help to us in future. Cooperative skills will equip us greatly to comfortably
work with any kind of person.
6. Equity and fairness
If our Civic Education teachers can begin to practice more democracy in the classroom
especially when they are teaching the subject which centers mainly on equity and fair
human treatment, you will find everyone in the class being happy and comfortable. Nobody
will feel let down in the class or feel like a second-class citizen because we are all treated
equally. If they allow us to participate in deciding what we are to learn at any time, it will give
us more confidence in ourselves that we are being recognized by the school . . . by our teachers
and stuffs like that. In fact, it will make me to develop more interest in the subject because
there is a change now
In a similar statement, one of the interviewees noted as follows:
In fact, I think that our school head (principal) should make it compulsory that from now
henceforth, every Civic Education teachers’ should as a matter of urgency re-strategize
how to deliver lessons in this subject. I believe that when the appropriate teaching
methods are adopted by our teachers, it will reflect in the skills we shall acquire, it will
reflect in the way we treat others in and outside the school and in our disposition when we
meet with others.
7. Discussion
7.1. Level of democratic practices in South East Nigerian secondary schools by civic
education teachers
Result has shown on a general basis that civic education teachers in South East Nigeria practiced
democracy in the classroom though on a marginal level (mean component level: 2.50). This finding is
in tandem with Hahn (2015) who reported that Danish Civic Education and English teachers adopted
democratic practices such as group work and project work in civic classes. Democratic practices in the
classroom bring about transformation and social change which translates into grooming socially
responsible and active citizens who can critically reflect on societal issues (Banks, 2017). Schuitema
et al. (2018), have posited that opportunities should be created for all students to express their points
of view in the process of learning. On the other hand, the finding of this study is contrary to that of
Magasu et al. (2020) who reported the use of teacher-centered method of teaching by Civic Education
teachers. Similarly, Guilfoile and Delander (2014:4) asserted that the most commonly used traditional
method of instruction by Civic Education teachers is lecture method which does not encourage active
participation or stimulation of creative minds and critical thinking in students. However, combination
of lecture or traditional teaching methods with active learning methods and video teaching which will
foster an open classroom climate (i.e., encouraging students’ input) seems to be most fruitful (Martens
& Jason, 2013). Sadly enough, reasons for continuous use of traditional/lecture methods which do not
actively engage students in critical and reflective thinking could be as a result of students’ and
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teachers’ insufficient mindfulness of the student’s right to a democratic space in the classroom (Daher,
2019)
Regardless of the general democracy, the student respondents in this study (N = 1400) reported
a lack of freedom in their classrooms. It is observed that students did not enjoy enough freedom in
class with a mean component level of 1.95. Unfortunately, this is so despite policy directions on
integration of democratic practices and current changes in curriculum and technology (Martens &
Jason, 2013). This perhaps explains why we have a high level of crime in the society ranging from
fanaticism, terrorism, kidnapping, robbery and other criminal offences. Rich, 1959) has observed
one of the focal points of democratic education as the problem of classroom freedom. He
enumerated the different aspects of freedom to include freedom from autocratic imposition of
subject-matter, freedom of expression by the student, freedom for him to develop his unique
abilities, and others.
7.2. Students’ perception about classroom democratization
This study observed a willingness and support of Civic Education students for the adoption of
democratic practices by their teachers considering the general perception mean of 3.80. The
Students perceived that it would be worthwhile giving them opportunity/freedom which includes
expressing themselves in the class, developing their exceptional abilities, generating their own
personalized ideas on the subject matter and having classroom discussions with fellow students.
This finding is supported by Ahmad et al. (2015) who reported that both female and male students
in their study perceived democratic classroom environment as playing a great role in improving
students’ social skills development. Majority of the students agreed that they listen to one another
carefully during a classroom discussion in a democratic classroom. Such classroom discussions
encourage students’ inputs in an ongoing discourse (Martens & Jason, 2013). When quality Civic
Education is offered to the learners, it will increase citizenship knowledge and engagement,
expand civic equality . . . and possibly reduce the dropout rate and improve school climate
(Guilfoile & Delander, 2014:3). To this end, Schuitema et al. (2018) have suggested that opportu-
nities should be created for students to express their viewpoints and create meanings in their
learnings. This is much possible within the school environment. The school serves as a minute
democratic society which offers students opportunity to learn and practice the skills needed for
democratic living (Dewey, 1916) and ultimately to become better democratic citizens (Morrisson,
2008).
7.3. Civic education teacher’s perception of a democratic classroom practice
Result revealed a positive perception by the teachers and support for the adoption of demo-
cratic practices in the classroom. They highly believed that democratizing classrooms equips
learners with skills to defend their rights, promotes effective learning and enhances perfor-
mance. This is in tandem with Davies et al. in Hahn (2015) who reported that civic education
teachers were in support of adopting democratic practices in the teaching of civic education
since citizenship aroused in the students’ concern for the welfare of others, moral and ethical
behavior, and tolerance of diversity within society. Similarly, other researchers like Sincer
et al. (2019) reported the derivatives of applying democratic practices to include development
of intrapersonal skills such as independence, regulation of feelings and knowing one’s own
competences among others. School administrators and the teachers are of the view that
democratizing the classroom enables students to express their opinions and contribute in
various issues relating to their education and well-being in school (Hahn, 2015). This appears
to reiterate the objectives of teaching Citizenship education by UNESCO which includes;
learning to exercise one’s judgment and thinking faculty and acquiring a sense of individual
and community responsibilities (UNESCO, 2010). All bring about a promising classroom
climate.
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7.4. Challenges facing adoption of democratic classroom
Results revealed that all items were positively agreed to by the teachers as challenges they are
faced with when attempting to implement democratic classroom practices. However, the big-
gest challenge confronting Civic Education teachers is the feeling that their power as a teacher
may become jeopardized when they give students opportunity to actively participate in the
classroom. This result could possibly explain the reason for the poor level of freedom accorded
to students by their teacher as was revealed in Table 1. One may assume that this kind of
feeling by teachers reveals a lack of adequate training of the teachers on how to implement
reflective practices such as classroom democratization. This implies a lack of confidence or
a complex problem on the part of the teachers. Above finding is corroborated with that of
Lawthong (2010) who reported gaps in teachers’ confidence, knowledge, and skills in applying
the democratic classroom practices as a challenge. Other researchers have reported students’
and teachers’ insufficient awareness of the student’s right to a democratic space in the class-
room (Daher, 2019), students’ misinterpretation of the teachers’ request for democratic input as
weakness or unpreparedness as such evading the opportunity (Morrison, 2008) and tension
between freedom of exploring student opinions and curriculum delivery constraints (Howe &
Abedin, 2013:341) as reasons for not adopting democratic classroom practices by Civic
Education teachers. As a way forward, Osman (2013) opined that teachers should be protected
from censorship or restraint that unreasonably interferes with their obligation to expose stu-
dents to controversial issues and to help students express their own views on such issues.
8. Conclusion
The study looked at Civic Education teachers and the application of democratic practices
(collaboration, freedom, critical thinking, and decision-making) in South-East geo-political zone
of Nigeria. From the findings, it is observed that Civic Education teachers in South East Nigeria
apply democratic practices in the classroom. However, this application appeared to be very
marginal. By implication, soliciting students’ voices and choices in the classroom lies somehow
outside the educational norms of our society. The consistent use of other methods which are
not student centered or engaging does not encourage the development of critical thinking skills
of Nigerian students. It does not also equip them with the necessary skills with which they can
meaningfully engage in democratic activities in the real world. Not much character transforma-
tion seems to have been achieved considering the level of crime in the Nigerian society. There is
thus a clarion call for education which teaches students their rights and privileges as well as
obligations to the state to become more engaging and democratic. This calls for a paradigm
shift from being the sole source of knowledge to a facilitator for all teachers. Teachers are
encouraged to improve on the adoption of democratic classroom practices in teaching espe-
cially in subjects like Civic Education so as to reduce the nuisance factors (especially kidnapping,
stealing and obtaining by tricks) of our today’s youths. Inclusion of more of the democratic
practices would nurture in the students the patriotic feelings of love for one another and love
for their country and the world at large. Furthermore, our study contributes to knowledge about
teaching of Civic Education in Nigerian secondary schools and democratic classroom practices.
8.1. Recommendations
The findings and implications of this study recommend the development of an education policy in Nigeria
which will aim at encouraging teachers to operate open and democratic classrooms. This will afford
teachers opportunity of having student engaged classrooms so as to produce people who shall become
transformed citizens able to defend their rights, and able to find a place in the world market. Civic
Education teachers should be properly trained through workshops with the goal to increase their
awareness of democratic practices and pedagogic approaches that enhance student agency and
voice, in order to groom critically thinking democratic citizens. Concerted efforts are encouraged on the
part of Civic Education teachers to ensure that students who are taught this subject will grow up to
become better citizens of tomorrow equipped with needed twenty-first-century skills. Such views will
enable them do away with authoritarian teaching and embrace a more democratic approach. In
conclusion if we trust the capacity of the human individual for developing his own potentiality, then we
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can provide him with many opportunities and permit him to choose his own way and his own direction in
his learning. In conclusion, the researchers see a brighter future for secondary school students as
conducive atmosphere of learning is insured through practicing adequate democracy in the classroom.
8.2. Limitations
Items on the Democratic Classroom Questionnaire (DCQ) for students which yielded a coefficient
reliability index of 0.70 could not furthermore be modified due to the limited time the researchers
had to complete the study before the complete lockdown of schools declared by the Federal
Government of Nigeria, in March 2020 given the outbreak of COVID-19.
8.3. Suggestion for further studies
There is a need to assess the training needs of teacher trainees in terms of what additional skills
they need to be equipped with to enable them become effective teachers who can groom the
upcoming youths to become responsible and transformed citizens of the society. Such trainings
will avail the trainee teachers’ opportunities of learning how to apply democratic practices in their
classrooms not only in Civic Education but in all classroom situations.
Funding
The authors received no direct funding for this research.
Author details
Cresantus N. Biamba
1,2
E-mail: cresantus.biamba@hig.se
ORCID ID: http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3571-0347
Obioha N. Chidimma
2
Ogunji V. Chinwe
2
Mezieobi C. Kelechi
2
Nwajiuba A. Chinyere
2
1
Department of Educational Sciences, University of Gavle,
Sweden.
2
Department of Educational Foundation, Alex Ekwueme
Federal University, Ndufu - Alike, Ebonyi State, Nigeria.
Citation information
Cite this article as: Assessing democratic classroom prac-
tices among secondary school civic education teachers in
the global south: case study of South East Nigeria, Cresantus
N. Biamba, Obioha N. Chidimma, Ogunji V. Chinwe, Mezieobi
C. Kelechi & Nwajiuba A. Chinyere, Cogent Education (2021),
8: 1896425.
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Classroom discussion is frequently proposes as an essential part of democratic citizenship education. Literature, however, pays little attention to what kind of discussion is most effective and how teachers can facilitate a discussion. This study aims to contribute to the development of a framework for analysing the characteristics of classroom discussions and the different roles teachers can adopt in guiding a discussion on controversial issues. In addition, we investigated how the way teachers guide the discussion is related to the structure and content features of the discussion. The framework was used to analyse five classroom discussions in secondary education. Our framework appeared to be useful for revealing differences in the structure and content features of the classroom discussions and in the way teachers guide the discussion. The results also indicated that a high degree of teacher regulation was related to high content quality and more participation from students. A high degree of student regulation was linked to more genuine discussion among students. The study underlines the importance of taking account of the teacher’s role in research into the effectiveness of classroom discussions for democratic citizenship education and the study makes useful suggestions for teachers when preparing for a classroom discussion.
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