Challenges for European teachers when assessing student learning to promote democratic citizenship competences




 Citizenship education,  Formative assessment,  Democratic citizenship competence,  Teachers,  Learning



  • There is a lack of resources and examples of good practice in citizenship education and relevant assessment tools for the teachers to transform and use in their practices.
  • The teachers experience a lack of pedagogical approaches to work with designing learning activities to enhance normative changes and values relevant to citizenship education.
  • Teachers experience a lack of time to foster student citizenship competence
  • When personal opinions are at stake, some teachers find it difficult to give appropriate feedback to non-democratic values and attitudes.
  • School systems’ and parents’ expectations of high-stakes summative feedback influence teachers’ hesitation to perform formative assessment in citizenship education.

Purpose: This study investigates the challenges faced by European teachers when assessing student learning of democratic citizenship competences by asking about their experiences and opinions in their teaching practices.

Design/methodology/approach: Through focus group interviews conducted with the teachers, we investigate the underlying reasons for teachers’ choices of using certain forms of assessment methods while excluding other methods. This paper presents the analysis of interviews with 82 schoolteachers from lower secondary schools in eight European countries (average 19 years of teaching experience) participating in  an Erasmus + project

Findings: The teachers’ responses uncover a need for teachers to be better equipped with relevant knowledge, tools and approaches to practice formative assessment to develop students’ democratic citizenship competences. The current common understanding of the summative assessment of knowledge using simple and standardised tools poses one of the main challenges for teachers to use formative assessment methods. 

Practical implications: The focus on summative assessment significantly limits the teachers’ room to work on democratic citizenship competence. There is a need to strengthen this as a democratic citizenship education as a cross-curricular element in education, with an emphasis on formative assessment, to monitor and support students’ democratic values and attitudes.

Author Biographies

Nanna Paaske, OsloMet

Nanna Paaske is associate professor of social science didactic at the Department of Primary and Secondary Teacher Education, Oslo Metropolitan University, OsloMet. Her main research interests are perspectives on inclusive education in social science and history education.

Siri Mohammad-Roe , OsloMet

Siri Mohammad-Roe is is assistant professor in English at Oslo Metropolitan University, OsloMet. Her main research interests are classroom research on promoting students’ agency through the use of literature and formative assessment practices.

Wouter Smets

Wouter Smets is assistant professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam. His main research interests are challenges and chances of teaching in heterogeneous settings mainly in the field of subject specific didactics of history and social sciences.

Ama Amitai, Karel de Grote Hogeshool

Ama Amitai is a researcher at Karel de Grote hogeschool in Antwerp. She holds a PhD in educational sociology from Ghent University. Her main research interests are citizenship education, teacher turnover and wellbeing and educational inequalities. 

Naomi Alexia Randazzo

Noami Alexia Randazzo, holds a master’s in social and organizational Psychology from the University of Palermo. After an experimental thesis on the role of criminal organizations in the Sicilian context, she proceeded to collaborate with researchers at the University of Palermo on social and organizational issues.

Lihong Huang

Lihong Huang is research professor of youth research at NOVA – Norwegian Social Research, Oslo Metropolitan University. Her main research interests are social and political factors and long-term consequences of learning results, learning environment and social and psychological wellbeing of children and youth in education systems.


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How to Cite

Paaske, N., Mohammad-Roe , S., Smets, W., Amitai, A., Randazzo, N. A., & Huang, L. (2023). Challenges for European teachers when assessing student learning to promote democratic citizenship competences. JSSE - Journal of Social Science Education, 22(3).