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This study aims to recognize the point when students encounter information that runs counter to their own beliefs and the path they take—do they discard it, or do they try to understand it. If a student cannot relate to what is being taught, said Garrett, they are less likely to be engaged in the subject. Political discussions, often fraught with emotion no matter the age group, are one way teachers can keep students engaged.

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A growing body of research from political science shows how political thinking is a surprisingly emotional endeavor. People are shown time and time again to dismiss evidence that counters existing beliefs. Rather than revise political views, people will resist accommodating facts that do not support their beliefs. This is shown to occur at all levels of education and across party lines. In light of recent political tumult across western democracies, the role of emotion and affect in politics has received increased public attention. In this study, Jim Garrett investigates the emotional and affective features of classroom discussions of political issues. While existing research in civics and social studies education substantiates the value of classroom discussions of political issues, little attention has been given to the less rational but crucial aspects of political life that are governed by feelings, even those that are difficult to express. Through interview, observation, and video-cued focus group discussions, Dr. Garrett will construct a conceptual framework for accommodating – though not correcting or dismissing – the emotional aspects of facilitating discussions about political issues in classrooms. Findings will directly contribute to research literature on democracy education, civics, social studies, and teacher education.


Spencer Foundation

Principal Investigator

H. James Garrett

Associate Professor, Mathematics and Science Education

Active Since

September 2017