Teaching Citizens: The Role of Open Classroom Climate in Fostering Critical Consciousness Among Youth

Erin B. Godfrey, Justina K amiel Grayman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Building on previous research on critical consciousness and civic development among youth, the current study examined the extent to which an open climate for discussion—one in which controversial issues are openly discussed with respect for all opinions—relates to youth’s critical consciousness and whether this association differs for youth from racial/ethnic majority versus minority backgrounds. Critical consciousness consisted of three components: the ability to critically read social conditions (critical reflection), feelings of efficacy to effect change (sociopolitical efficacy) and actual participation in these efforts (critical action), in both the educational and political/community domains. Open classroom climate was operationalized at the classroom rather than individual student level to more accurately draw links to educational policy and practice. Multilevel analyses of the 1999 IEA Civic Education Study, a nationally-representative sample of 2,774 US ninth-graders (50 % female; 58 % white), revealed that an open classroom climate predicted some, but not all, components of critical consciousness. Specifically, open classroom climate was positively related to sociopolitical efficacy in both the educational and political domains and to critical action in the community domain, but was not related to critical reflection. Few differences in these associations were found for youth from racial/ethnic majority versus minority backgrounds. The exception was sociopolitical efficacy in the educational domain: open classroom climate was particularly predictive of sociopolitical efficacy for minority youth. The findings are discussed in regard to previous research on open classroom climate and youth critical consciousness; and implications for future research and educational practice are drawn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1801-1817
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number11
StatePublished - Oct 9 2014


  • Civic development
  • Classroom climate
  • Classroom practice
  • Critical consciousness
  • Open classroom climate
  • Sociopolitical development
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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