Student Parallel Election Program (Student Vote) Evaluation
Section 5 Conclusions
Overall, the results of the evaluation show that Student Vote is generally meeting its stated objectives for students and teachers. While some results are more clearly demonstrated than others, the overall evaluation demonstrates the positive impact of the program on students and teachers.
5.1 Impart Knowledge and understanding of Canada's Democratic System among Students
Self-reported student knowledge of politics and government showed an increase after the completion of Student Vote. This increased knowledge was also demonstrated in the answers to the knowledge-based questions. After Student Vote, students answered more of the knowledge-based questions on the survey correctly. These findings were robust and continued to have a significant impact when the regression analysis controlled for possible confounding variables. Thus, participating in Student Vote does have a significant impact on student knowledge.
Parents and teachers also reported that the Student Vote program had had a strong impact on student knowledge. Parents felt that the Student Vote activities had increased their child(ren)'s knowledge and critical-thinking skills about politics and government. Teachers likewise reported that Student Vote had significantly impacted student knowledge, stating that testing and observations of student questions and knowledge reinforced this belief.
5.2 Generate Appreciation of the Importance of Voting and Civic Engagement among Students
Student Vote had a positive, although modest, impact on student appreciation of politics, elections and civic engagement. While Student Vote did not increase the proportion of students who reported being very interested in politics, it did increase the proportion who were somewhat interested, and reduced the proportion who were not at all interested, in politics. This implies that while Student Vote did not necessarily create an intense interest in politics, it did help to increase moderate interest and awareness of politics as well as address a certain level of apathy about politics. However, the impact of Student Vote on student interest in politics was not very robust and became insignificant when other variables were controlled for in the regression analysis. This suggests that the main effect found for Student Vote is being driven by various other factors.
Student Vote's impact on how often students discussed politics with their friends and family was similar to its impact on student interest in politics. The initial analyses showed that Student Vote reduced the proportion of students who stated that they never talked to their friends and family about politics. These findings, though, did not stay significant when other variables were controlled for in the regression. Democracy Bootcamps, though, did have a significant impact on elementary students. Elementary students whose teacher/school had participated in a Democracy Bootcamp reported talking to their friends and family about politics more often than students whose teacher had not attended.
Adult perceptions of Student Vote's impact on their child(ren) were more straightforward. The majority of parents and teachers reported that Student Vote had had a positive impact on the students' sense of civic duty and responsibility. Additionally, the majority of parents and teachers felt that Student Vote had increased student interest in government and politics. Finally, the majority of parents and teachers also felt that Student Vote had motivated students to discuss politics with friends and family.
5.3 Provide Educators with a Better Ability to Teach Civic Knowledge and civic education Concepts
Student Vote's impact on educators' ability to teach civics can be expressed through changes in teacher knowledge of, interest in and confidence in the subject, or it can be achieved by developing and sharing high-quality resources for use with students. By enhancing teacher characteristics, Student Vote can help make learning about politics and government more engaging and relevant for students. Teachers who are more knowledgeable about, interested in and confident about teaching government and politics can better relate the classroom to real-world experiences.
Participating in Student Vote 2015 did not appear to impact teachers' knowledge of, or interest in, politics. This could partially be explained by the finding that a majority of teachers had participated in previous Student Vote programs. Both before and after the completion of Student Vote, the majority of teachers reported being at least somewhat knowledgeable about, and interested in, politics. A regression of these outcomes indicated that the amount of experience teachers had teaching civics had a stronger impact on outcomes: more experience was associated with higher levels of knowledge and interest. Given that 60% of teachers had previously participated in Student Vote, it is possible that teacher knowledge and interest had been impacted by earlier experiences in the program. This was partially demonstrated by the finding that teachers who had previously participated in Student Vote reported greater interest in politics. Additionally, the majority of teachers noted that participating in Student Vote had increased their confidence in teaching civics.
Student Vote's enhancement of educator abilities to teach civics by providing high-quality resources is more robust. Teachers reported being very satisfied with all the resources that were provided to them for Student Vote. Participating teachers interviewed reported that the materials were accurate, up to date and of high quality. They further noted that the materials were readily adaptable for use in their classrooms. Thus, they were able to incorporate the materials into their lesson plans to help supplement information. Teachers also noted that the Student Vote materials had helped to create a sense of community for the students. Rather than just their classroom learning about the election, students felt a part of something national in scope. This helped to make the material more relevant and engaging for students.
5.4 Contribute to Future Democratic Participation among Canadian Youth
Student Vote had a positive impact on future voting intentions and democratic participation. The initial analyses found that students had an increased interest in voting in the 2015 federal election after the completion of Student Vote. This impact was robust among elementary students, maintaining its significance in the regression. Democracy Bootcamps also had a unique, positive impact on elementary student voting intentions – both in the 2015 federal election and in future elections. Student Vote's immediate impact on secondary students, though, did not stay significant in the regression analysis. However, the regression noted that prior student or teacher/school participation in Student Vote, and being born in Canada, increased interest in voting in the 2015 federal election, suggesting that repeated exposure is related to outcomes. Additionally, students' past participation in Student Vote, and teacher/school participation in a Democracy Bootcamp, positively affected secondary students' interest in voting in the future. Finally, after the completion of Student Vote, students were more likely to agree that voting was a civic responsibility. This was further manifested by the fact that the most common reason students gave for wanting to vote in the future was that it was their responsibility as Canadian citizens. Finally, parents and teachers reported that Student Vote had increased student intentions to vote in the future.
5.5 Increase Program Participation Rates
Student Vote succeeded in meeting its program participation objectives (which were to meet or exceed the 2011 student and school participation rates). The Student Vote program for the 2015 federal election was the largest program to date. Over half of all Canadian schools, representing all federal electoral districts in Canada, participated in the program. Participation of students and schools increased by more than 64% and 78%, respectively, over the 2011 federal election.