Doing Democracy

Global Doing Democracy Research Project

Project Information

Project title: Educators and education for democracy: Moving beyond “thin” democracy1

Co-directors: Paul R. Carr & David Zyngier

Project summary

This Network site is for the development and replication of research on beliefs, experiences and perspectives in relation to democracy in education. It aims to assist in and with the facilitation of specific research projects.

The debate over democracy in education could be characterized in terms of representative versus participatory democracy, with the former highlighting electoral processes (thin), and the latter focusing on critical engagement and social justice (thick). This research project seeks to compare and contrast studies of education-students and teachers in Canada and Australia, and other countries, highlighting three themes:

1) the predisposition among education-students (future teachers) to understand democracy and politics in a thin way;

2) the potential for university education teachers and classroom teachers to do transformative or thick democracy in education; and

3) the importance of understanding power and difference in relation to democracy.

The research will lead to the development of a framework for conceptualizing democracy in education, highlighting, in particular, what educators can do to become more critically aware and engaged. It asks the question: “Do our educational systems encourage, support, and cultivate a democratic experience for students?” This relates to contemporary situations and issues, which illuminate options for future developments. The research will also support a more robust and critical assessment of the relevance and potential of democratic education within a context of globalization.


This project will facilitate international collaboration within the academic community while fostering the development of permanent exchange networks. The proposed conference, which will include seminars, lectures and public fora, seeks to include original contributions from the most significant “players” in the field from a variety of discourses in relation to the themes raised in the analysis of the data collected. It will also make these data accessible to the general public and the profession at-large as a series of possible recommendations for policymakers. We will seek to access contributions, therefore, from teachers, parents, education officials, and government policymakers as well as academics. One tangible outcome will be a book, while being rigorous and authoritative, which will be accessible to the general public. It is planned to published simultaneously in Spanish, French and English.

Expected results

This International Research Linkage will facilitate:

  1. Collaborative development of a conference and seminars, lectures and public fora on Democracy and Education in both Canada and Australia, with efforts to extend the work to other countries, facilitated through the university and faculty working on this project.
  2. Development of a series of chapters for an edited book through the solicitation of contributions from the identified experts and key people who are involved in this project.
  3. Publication of peer-reviewed journal articles to be submitted to top-tier journals.
  4. Peer reviewed presentations at American Education Research Association (AERA) Conference, the Canadian Education Association Conference and the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) Annual Conference and Doing Democracy Rosario in Argentina 2010.
  5. Education policy and program development in both countries, and elsewhere as appropriate, to reflect the findings.
  6. Development of professional development and consultancy to widen as well as deepen understandings of democracy in school education.


1. Those interested in joining the Global Doing Democracy Research project: Moving beyond “thin” democracy should:

a. Review the documentation on the Project website, including the published research to-date as well as the research instrument;

b. Identify a sample where the research might be replicated;

c. Determine how the research instrument might be adapted to be used within that particular context, either with education-students, education faculty, classroom teachers or secondary school students;

d. Develop a plan for the implementation of the research instrument, including developing an analytical model to assess the data;

e. Examine other issues, as appropriate, including ethical reviews, consent, collaboration, etc.

2. The Co-directors for the Project (Paul R. Carr & David Zyngier) would be interested in providing support with those developing their projects based on the model proposed in the Global Doing Democracy Research project: Moving beyond “thin” democracy

3. Ultimately, the Project aims to gather as much data from as many sites as possible in order to undertake critical and comparative analysis on the state of democracy in education. Similarly, the international nature of the Project will enhance its credibility, voice and potential for change in education.

1. We recognise the original contribution to this study of Paul R. Carr in the development of the research instrument and original research methodology.


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