Teaching Civic Responsibility to Georgian University Students

Piloting this fall in the Republic of Georgia, a brand new course will teach students essential knowledge to foster an understanding of civic responsibility.  This one-of-a-kind class is developed by Dr. Greer Burroughs, professor in the Educational Theory Policy & Administration Department at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education, in conjunction with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). Intended to teach university students what it means to participate in democracy, the class will also provide them with the confidence and practical know-how to make a difference beyond the classroom.  Aptly titled “Democracy and Citizenship”, this course is designed to change the way that Georgian students think about Democracy.  Using a very integrated and communicative class setting, students will actively participate in class in order to learn basic facts about democracy and illustrate their role in it.  The program is beginning this fall at Georgian Technical University, Georgian-American UniversityGrigol Robakidze University, Caucasus University, and Javakhishvili-Tbilisi State University, and in the Spring at the University of Georgia

This past year, Dr. Burroughs made two trips to the Republic of Georgia to lay the foundation for this innovative course.  In March, she met with the program and curriculum directors to outline the class by creating the syllabus and interviewing authors to help write the remainder of the text.  Working closely with a translator, Dr. Burroughs helped to shape the direction of the text to express her vision of the importance of civic responsibility.  In July, she returned to Georgia to conduct an intensive training seminar for the teachers of the course.  She instructed the professors to use a more constructivist class style to help build the necessary skills and foster civic engagement among the students. 

“Teachers had become accustomed to lecturing to large congregations of students,” said Dr. Burroughs. “Now, we are asking them to engage the students in debates and role-playing activities in order to build skills and the confidence that they can really do something with their knowledge.”

The training was very well received by the professors, and Dr. Burroughs will return in December to observe classes while in session, conduct focus groups with students who took the course, and interview several of the professors.  The students were tested at the beginning of this semester to assess their existing knowledge about civic responsibility, and at the end they will be given post-tests to monitor their progress with the hope that they have increased in knowledge and have a greater incentive to participate in civic life.  Plans are already underway to extend the course to other universities in Georgia, with Dr. Burroughs planning to train additional professors during the summer 2012.

To learn more about Georgian Civic Responsibility Education contact Greer C. Burroughs, Ed.D. atgreer.burroughs@gse.rutgers.edu.