We are proud to present the results of a three-year experimental testing of educational methods and resources in the subject of civic education at the secondary level of primary (ages 11-15) and high schools (ages 15-20) in Slovakia, with an emphasis on the development of civic competencies of the involved students. In the following text, we bring you a summary of the most important findings from our research and practice.

The experiment took place during the school years 2020/2021, 2021/2022 and 2022/2023 at three experimental (private elementary school, grammar school, secondary industrial school) and three control schools with the same socio-demographic composition (public elementary school, bilingual grammar school, secondary vocational school), while one of the experimental schools also focused on changes in the activities of the school parliament. Since the course of the research was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the experimental teaching took place both remotely and in person, according to current anti-pandemic measures. The teaching, its goals and applied teaching methods and tools were created and covered by the teachers themselves, with the support of the Department of Ethics and Civic Education of the Faculty of Education at Comenius University in Bratislava (guarantor of the experimental testing) and the Institute for Active Citizenship (coordinator of the experimental activities).

The key findings of the experiment:

Innovation of the teaching process and methodical approach to civic education

  • increases students‘ motivation, activity, and relationship with this subject, which is also related to a change in the perception of the subject from often boring and useless to important and practically applicable,
  • leads to an increase in the level of students´ civic competencies and their awareness, and a higher degree of civic engagement. Students also showed a higher level of tolerance, better recognized current social phenomena or increased their caution when obtaining information,
  • open and polite discussion and exchange of opinions during classes lead to the improvement of interpersonal relations and communication skills of students, which we consider critical for the needs of developing mutual understanding in today’s polarized world. We even noticed a demand for an innovative teaching approach and a space for open discussion from the students themselves.

„Working in groups was much less stressful for us and we felt more comfortable in class. We didn’t have any stress from having to learn something by heart and then write it on a test. Group work, for me personally, gave a greater perspective, interest in the given topic and we focused on it [the topic]. In classic teaching, it can happen that we don’t remember anything from a monotonous lectures, because we can’t concentrate, which is why, for example, group work is a better learning method.“

„It was positive because it taught us something for life. The presentation doesn’t give us much. But because I was doing something interesting, there is a greater chance that I will remember it afterwards. If I had to sit and watch a presentation for an hour, I would sit through it, but then immediately erase it from my memory. Because it is through games, it will teach us more, we will experience it firsthand and that is what it teaches us.“

Civic competencies and attitudes

  • the focus and quality of civic education have a direct (positive or negative) impact on the development of students‘ higher cognitive abilities, i.e. on civic attitudes and students‘ ability to act, which form the basis of its educational goal,
  • we noted an increase in the positive perception and importance of volunteering as one of the forms of civic engagement, while students pointed to the school’s active approach to initiating and leading volunteer activities, as well as an increase in understanding of the importance of local government for citizens and community life,
  • it has been proven that an innovative teaching approach and process lead to higher tolerance towards minorities, deeper understanding of the problems of stereotypes, prejudices or gender (in)equality, which we consider to be key in preventing hatred and creating an inclusive society.

„I feel more responsible that what I do, will affect others and I care about that.“

„It definitely gave us some things that we probably wouldn’t have looked for on our own, that’s how we learned them and realized they were important and quite useful.“

Verbal assessment vs. grading

  • students perceive verbal assessment more positively than grading, whilst a stronger connection to the subject is created for them, as well as an increase in the perception of the usefulness of the subject,
  • verbal assessment places significantly higher demands on teachers in terms of personnel capacities and systematic and fair comparison of students‘ performances. Verbal assessment is therefore perceived somewhat more sceptically, including the need for longer-term support for its implementation.

„The grade is a bit more abstract and I can quickly forget about it. However, when someone compliments me, it stays with me longer because it means a lot to me. Moreover, when someone tells me what I need to improve on, I really think about it, as it is an area in which I can subsequently improve. Words carry a completely different weight than grades. Spoken feedback from a real physical person who is here, not an abstract number on the Internet, has a different weight and importance.”

Furthermore, we want to emphasize that the innovative educational methods and tools used in the experiment are significantly low-cost, and therefore, have minimal negative impact on public administration budgets. Their wide variety allows active teachers to adapt the teaching of civic education to the needs and interests of students and their professional preferences, creativity, and ideas right here and now. We perceive this as a strong positive factor for nationwide expansion and application of the findings of this experimental testing. They also represent a great opportunity for more effective, meaningful, and attractive civic education, which will benefit not only the students but also our society.

Finally, we would like to sincerely thank the involved schools, their management, teachers, students, and their parents and the Department of Ethics and Civic Education of the Comenius University in Bratislava for their perfect cooperation and enormous personal commitment, the Pontis Foundation for their financial support of the research, but also all the involved experts and civic education enthusiast. Without your interest, inner conviction and willingness, our joint experimentation would not be possible. Thank you.

For more details click on the button below.

Download the final report