The authors propose a theoretical model of engaged learning for democracy and justice that draws from multicultural education and critical pedagogy, Freireian dialogic education, and Kolb’s active, experiential learning. Engaged learning is defined as applying concepts and ideas from the classroom to out-of-class cognition and action. An empirical investigation examines the impact of a course focusing on intergroup relations and social conflict. The course is shown to increase students’ structural attributions for racial/ethnic inequality and sociohistorical causation. The course also increases students’ action orientation away from individual blaming to individual action toward institutional targets, and institutional and societal change. On pre- and post-test measures, engaged learning is shown to mediate the impact of course content and active pedagogy on students’ active thinking and understanding of sociohistorical causation as well as students’ action strategies that promote more tolerance. On post-test only measures, engaged learning mediated effects on socio-structural understanding, understanding others, and learning about conflict. The authors discuss the importance of content, active pedagogy, and engaged learning, and implications for future research and practice on teaching about democracy and social justice.
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