The effects of reading well-written passages on students’ civic understanding and engagement | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 11, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1751-1917
  • E-ISSN: 1751-1925



Students report learning about civics from reading textbooks more than from any other instructional activity. The US textbooks are often poorly organized, unfamiliar and uninteresting, creating a comprehension challenge for adolescents who struggle to learn the content these books contain. This study explored whether adolescents could understand civics content from reading a passage prepared to be comprehensible, present challenging content contrasting direct with representative democracy and enhance their interest. We prepared three passages to inform, argue or explain, which are genres used by political scientists. A total of 168 15-year-olds read one of the three passages and answered items to measure their comprehension, understanding about democracy, motivation to take action and interest in both the passage and social studies. These adolescents tended to comprehend all three passages, understand the complex content about democracy and express motivation to take action. We consider whether these results could be extended to countries other than the United States.


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