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Deliberation in Schools


Pierrick Chalaye and Kei Nishiyama, together with the Centre’s Associate Wendy Russel

Deliberation in Schools

Funded by The International Association for Public Participation, the Project Team includes:

  • Kei Nishiyama

  • Wendy Russell

  • Pierrick Chalaye

Project Description

This project is a pilot program to introduce deliberation into public schools. Currently, students learn civic communication skills through debating. This may provide skills for the adversarial, win-at-all-cost, antagonistic style of current political debate, but we think our democracy will be strengthened by bringing a different set of skills to young people.

The Deliberation in Schools program will build the capacity of school children to listen, reason, think, communicate and collaborate, so that they have the resources to engage productively as citizens in our democracy, both now and in the future. Classroom deliberation enables students to get a clearer understanding of issues in their society and everyday lives, find their own vocabulary to explain the issue at stake, and thereby cultivate their motivation for further engagement in and beyond school.

The pilot begins with programs in two public schools in the ACT (a primary school and a secondary college). Each program involves a series of about 5 teaching sessions (approx. 2 hours each) over one term, focusing on topics selected from the Australian Curriculum and skills relating to the General Capabilities. The team will work with teachers to co-design the teaching sessions to fit with the curriculum and the learning needs of the class.

It is anticipated that the deliberative approach being piloted will be used by teachers, but will also be delivered in schools by external practitioners/facilitators working with teachers. Based on our experiences and findings from the pilot, we will develop professional development (PD) resources aimed at teachers and engagement practitioners, which will provide guidance and resources to conduct similar programs in other schools and other settings.

The first phase pilot and development of the PD resource is supported by the Australasian branch of the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2), through their Pitch for Practice program.

A second phase of the pilot is planned that will extend the program to additional schools (including a high school), build on insights and outcomes of the first phase, and develop a collaborative research project. We are particularly interested in exploring student agency, the role of teachers, and how the program can help to empower students from marginalised groups.

As well as providing skills consistent with curriculum requirements and building student agency and civic engagement, the Deliberation in Schools program will build the capacity of schools to govern and make decisions in a genuinely student-centred, inclusive way. It will also stimulate schools and school students to engage in political debates and decision-making, as students become motivated to write letters to politicians, make submissions, launch initiatives, and participate in community engagement activities. Beyond advocacy, this will help to build deep and enduring commitment and capacity for public participation and public deliberation.

Project Outputs

  1. Russell, Wendy., Nishiyama, Kei., & Chalaye, Pierrick. (2019a) Deliberation in Ainslie School. Project Report submitted to International Association for Public Participation Australasia. 

  2. Russell, Wendy., Nishiyama, Kei., & Chalaye, Pierrick. (2019b) Deliberation in Hawker College. Project Report submitted to International Association for Public Participation Australasia.

Public Engagement

  1. Nishiyama, Kei., Russell, Wendy., Chalaye, Pierrick. (2019). What is the Deliberation in School pilot? What we learn? DeliberateACT (14 Feb).

  2. Nishiyama, Kei. (2018). Democratic education in multicultural societies. At Waseda University Department of Education Lifelong Education Course (15 Oct).

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