High School Students' Acquisition of Civic Dispositions: The Impact of We The People

By Diana Owen

Civic dispositions are traits essential for democratic character formation and the maintenance of constitutional democracy.  This study investigates the proposition that civic education contributes to students’ development of the capacities that support democratic citizenship.

Specifically, it explores the impact of We the People teacher professional development and the We the People curriculum on high school students’ acquisition of six categories of civic dispositions: 1) respect for the rule of law; 2) political attentiveness; 3) civic duty; 4) community involvement; 5) commitment to government service; and 6) the norms of political efficacy and political tolerance.  The findings indicate that civics instruction is positively related to students’ development of civic dispositions.  Students whose teachers have We the People professional development, especially those who took a We the People class, scored significantly higher than students in the comparison group on all six types of dispositions.