Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Street Law Concludes ‘Deliberating in a Democracy’ Program in Ukraine



In an era of increasing global political polarization, Street Law is seeking to bring people closer together, which is why last year we launched a new democracy renewal campaign in Ukraine.

The project is called “Deliberating in a Democracy – Teaching and Learning about Contested Public Policy Issues in Ukraine.” It is designed to bring Street Law’s innovative deliberative discussion methods to classrooms across the Ukraine.

Street Law’s deliberation teaching methodology offers space and structure for young learners to practice important civic skills like listening, understanding multiple perspectives, and engaging in respectful discourse while discussing controversial public policy issues.

The one-year project launched in September 2020 and was funded by the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv and implemented in partnership with Nova Doba, the all-Ukrainian association of teachers of history and social studies based in Lviv.

"Deliberation methodology works especially well in conflict and post-conflict societies, said the Executive Director of Nova Doba, Polina Verbystska. “This includes not only real war conditions, but also wars of historical memory, which in Ukraine is an obstacle to its democratic development. In this case, deliberations provide teachers and students with a practical approach to better understand each other, listen to a different point of view, gather arguments and look for the common good in all involved people. As a result, deliberations support developing core civic competencies."

Overall, this project involved three main phases: 1) development of Ukrainian deliberation materials; 2) training of teachers; and 3) implementation of deliberations in classrooms.

Development of Ukrainian deliberation materials: Street Law and Nova Doba recruited a group of Ukrainian civic education experts to help develop deliberation materials relevant for Ukrainian students.

After being introduced to the methodology by Street Law, the experts developed eight deliberations resources with balanced materials on topics ranging from distance learning and mass education to gun ownership to dual citizenship.

Training of teachers: In April 2021, Street Law conducted trainings for Ukrainian teachers to prepare them to pilot the deliberations in their classrooms. This diverse group of participants included teachers from around the country, including harder to reach areas in Eastern Ukraine.

"From the outset, we made a conscious effort to ensure that teachers and students in Eastern Ukraine had equal access to the materials and trainings,” said Ben Perdue, Street Law’s director of international programs. “By including participants from places like Donetsk and Mariupol, we supported educational outcomes in areas often overlooked by international development projects. More importantly, however, those participants added valuable perspectives to group discussions and improved the experience for all of the participants."

In June 2021, Nova Doba led a workshop for some of the teachers who had been piloting the deliberations in their classrooms. This workshop allowed teachers to reflect on the experience and share their lessons learned and best practices with their colleagues.

Implementation of deliberations in classrooms: Following the initial training, the teachers started leading deliberations for their students. More than 95% of students reported that the deliberations helped them better understand other people's points of view. A similar percentage of students said that they want to have more conversations about contested issues with people who have different beliefs. This extremely positive response from students underscores the importance of implementing these kinds of lessons in classrooms around Ukraine.

This program will conclude in September 2021 with a Street Law training workshop held in Lyiv, in partnership with Nova Doba and the Ukraine Ministry of Education and Science.

This program positively impacted Ukrainian students from across the country, from Lviv to Kyiv to Donetsk. This countrywide impact will continue to grow as we train more Ukrainian teachers to conduct successful deliberations in their classrooms.