Newswise — Four public schools in California took part in a research study conducted by Anna Rosefsky Saavedra of the RAND Corporation to examine the development of academic civic-mindedness and model citizenship among IB students enrolled in the Diploma Programme, a curriculum offered by the International Baccalaureate (IB) to prepare students for success at university and for eventual careers in a globalized economy. The study’s findings reveal that Diploma Programme students demonstrate greater civic knowledge and skills than their non-IB peers. For the purpose of the study, “academic civic-mindedness” was defined as student knowledge of the US government, public policy and effective advocacy techniques; the meaning of “model citizenship” was based on research conducted by Westheimer and Kahne in 2004 and indicates an orientation toward “participatory, personally responsible and socially just” civic behavior.
Dr. Anna Saavedra found that when 18-year-old IB students were surveyed on their knowledge of US government and public policy, their results compared favorably with nationally representative samples provided by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) and the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). On nine out of 10 questions asked about US government and public policy, IB students answered correctly. These results surpassed those achieved by the CIRCLE sample of 18-year-olds by 20 percentage points. On four specific questions related to US civic education, the IB sample averaged 74% on correct answers, compared with just 51% of CIRCLE students. IB students also outscored the NAEP sample of students, scoring 11% higher. DP students identified three courses in particular that developed their public policy knowledge: theory of knowledge—-a signature IB course; history of the Americas; and group 1 English.
Acquisition of advocacy skills
In interviews with IB students, Saavedra found repeated references to the Diploma Programme’s plentiful use of discussions, debates, oral presentations, written assignments and collaboration─ key elements in helping them acquire the skills necessary for civic engagement and effective advocacy. IB students and teachers both identified the skills necessary for civic engagement as the same as those needed for success in college and career. Referred to as “21st century skills,” these include written communication, flexibility, diplomacy, persuasion, listening and negotiation, among others cited in the report.
Nearly every IB student in the study reported current events discussions occurring at least once a week in their classes, while 60% reported daily discussions. Seventy percent (70%) reported that they debated at least once a week and that simulations occurred at least once a month. In contrast, only 25 percent of non-IB students reported regular or weekly current events discussions; the majority reported rare or nonexistent debates or simulations in their non-IB coursework.
Most IB students surveyed expressed the belief that the Diploma Programme develops civic-mindedness and model citizenship to a greater extent than alternative educational tracks, notably the California College Prep and Advanced Placement programs (in the sample schools). IB students further expressed the view that the instruction they receive develops their thinking skills and a love of learning, while other programs emphasize rote memorization and test preparation.
The IB students largely indicated that they felt more informed about social issues due to their participation in the Diploma Programme, which motivates them to become involved in issues they care about.
Download the research report, Academic civic-mindedness and model citizenship in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. Or read the research summary.
About the IB
The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a not-for profit foundation that offers four high quality and challenging education programmes for a worldwide community of schools. IB programmes have gained a reputation for rigour and high academic standards, for preparing students for life in a globalized 21st century and for developing citizens who will create a better, more peaceful world. Currently, more than one million IB students attend nearly 3,700 schools in 144 countries. In the Americas, approximately 90,000 students are enrolled in the Diploma Programme.