Semester in Democracy
A Course Evaluation
Semester in Democracy Evaluation Report
Semester in Democracy
About the Course
Semester in Democracy: The Next Frontier was an immersive 7 week Semester in Dialogue course that examines the institutions, culture and practice of democracy in Canada. Through self-directed learning projects, dialogue with thought leaders, site visits, group projects and skills building workshops, students experienced what it means to live in a democracy. Students also explored the new frontiers of democracy by developing, designing and executing a democratic engagement project and delivering a public dialogue on democracy.
About the Evaluation
We conducted an independent evaluation by the SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue’s Strengthening Canadian Democracy Initiative, separate from the course instructors, and asked students to complete two surveys: one at the beginning of the program and another on the last day of class. After the program, students were also invited to participate in an interview about their program experience.
Exciting Initial Findings
94% of students reported the course gave them a more positive view of their role in democracy. The course increased students' self-confidence through practical knowledge about how Canada's democracy works and applied practice through experimental assignments and workshops. In interviews and surveys, student participants listed new ways they intended to continue to be involved.
100% of students have more positive views on getting engaged in democratic activities after the program, and 78% reported a more positive view of elected officials after the program. Students emphasized that their perspectives changed from viewing politics and democracy as cold and distant to something they saw as human and people-centred because of hosting and interacting with thought leaders and other speakers.
94% of students state they increased their understanding of key policy issues related to democracy after the program. Students reported entering the course with varying understandings of democracy. Students reported the discussions were both insightful and challenging to learn about systemic issues that are limited Canada's democracy, including contemporary impact of colonialization and systemic racism. This complexity also led to feelings of overwhelm and a potential decrease in trust in government among the students.
100% of students indicate they have a strong understanding of democratic engagement after the program, a 48-percentage point increase from the 52% that believed that before the program. They credited the course for expanding their understanding and willingness to participate in democratic engagement.
After the program, 72% of students agreed that if they had a concern, they knew who to contact and how to make an impact in their local community. Students reported a higher degree of involvement in their communities after the program, and many specifically listed how they were now, or planning to, participate in their communities and politics as a result of the program– including interest in running for office.
Students reported substantial growth in their knowledge of important transferable skills. After the program, students felt they had strong knowledge and understanding in creating a critical path and writing skills for democracy-related documents such as writing a candidate issue brief, profile and blog posts. Throughout the program, personalized feedback from instructors, subject-experts and practitioners added to their growth.