Assessing MENA* Students’ Civic Literacy for Social Justice: Project Citizen in Jordan and Morocco

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Project Citizen is an educational program that began in the United States in 1995 (Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education, 2007) and has spread to over 80 countries, including 11 countries in the Middle East, North Africa (MENA) (Glaser Consulting Group, 2004). This program promotes active citizenship and public policy; while working together, the participating students identify, research, and produce public policy solutions to community problems (Pepper, Burroughs & Groce, 2003). The students prepare posters and a portfolio on the community problem to be publicly shared with the officials. Programs such as Project Citizen help promote basic dispositions such as empathy, collaboration, patriotism, attachment to community, and advocacy for human rights and social justice issues. However, as stated in my co-authored article Student Attitudes towards and Perceptions of Project Citizen, “research about Project Citizen’s impact on students is undeveloped in peer-reviewed literature” (Fry & Bentahar, 2013, p. 3). It is even scarcer when it comes to a part of the world that is almost always ignored in related literature in terms of students’ civic literacy and social justice development.

The purpose of this research project is to assess the impact [if any] of Project Citizen on MENA students’ civic literacy for social justice. My data will be collected from students, teachers, program directors who have implemented Project Citizen, with a focus on two countries: Jordan and Morocco. For this end, I will survey 70 students, interview 16-20 stakeholder groups (program directors and teachers), and examine the students’ projects, half from each country. This research project will adopt a mixed methods approach with a convergent (concurrent) design. That is, I will rely on data derived from quantitative and qualitative methods. Both methods are important to me, hence the choice for the convergent design. Three research questions are my focus:

-Does engagement with Project Citizen increase MENA students’ civic literacy for social justice?

- How do stakeholder groups (program directors and teachers) view the impact [if any] of Project Citizen on the students’ civic literacy, and how does it affect their social justice development?

-How do the students’ personal stories through their Project Citizen experiences reflect [or not] a development in their civic literacy and social justice?

I should note that the first question will be in a form of a survey (quantitative) that is supported with 4-5 open-ended questions. Research questions 2 and 3 will be mainly qualitative, with a review of the students’ sample Project Citizen portfolios.

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