Citizenship Education Research Network

The Citizenship Education Research Network (CERN) is a special interest group within the Comparative and International Education Society of Canada (CIESC/SCECI), an association of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education (CSSE).

CERN brings together a group of interested scholars, community-based researchers, policymakers, practitioners and diverse stakeholders to explore meanings of, and processes and approaches to citizenship and citizenship education in Canada. Citizenship education is broadly understood as a complex field that captures learning in both formal organizations (e.g., schools and government-sponsored programs) and informal settings (e.g., community organizations and arts). It also includes social and cultural contributions to citizenship. CERN’s focus includes the burgeoning field of global citizenship. Scholars consider differing conceptions, challenges and enactments of global citizenship at the local, national, and international stage.

CERN recognizes the importance of exploring the nature and form of citizenship across diverse identities, as these manifestations can influence individuals’ sense of belonging as well as the nature and form of their participation in society. Accordingly, it embraces a broad range of work, both theoretical and applied, related to citizenship and citizenship education. CERN provides a critical space for educationists and diverse stakeholders interested in citizenship and citizenship education to debate, dialogue, and develop the concepts and field of citizenship and citizenship education further.

The Founding of CERN

CERN began in response to a recognized need for collaboration and coordination of efforts on issues related to citizenship and citizenship education across Canadian educational jurisdictions in the late 1990s. At the time, citizenship scholars had identified a crisis in citizenship education. CERN’s initial founding took the form of a Citizenship Education Think Tank held at the Kananaskis Field Station in Alberta, March 27-30, 1998. A group of thirty participants met to develop an agenda for citizenship education research in Canada; to continue the exchange of ideas among interested researchers, partners and stakeholders; and to lay the groundwork for common comparative pan-Canadian research projects. This event was organized under the auspices of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education, and was sponsored by the department of Canadian Heritage. Please see the last section for more details on the historical foundations of CERN.

CERN Research

CERN’s early research focus covered four inter-related themes:

  • studies of the historical, social and philosophical context;
  • peoples’ conceptions of citizenship; and
  • educators’ conceptions.
  • the current state of knowledge on what citizenship education is and what is actually being done;
  • the impact of practices and norms of institutions other than schools on citizenship education, especially on the hidden curriculum;
  • the roles of schools and other institutions or groups such as students, parents, and community groups; and
  • what is meant by the notion of ‘best practices’ of citizenship.
  • the citizenship values and principles which Canadians share;
  • Canadians’ perceptions of the values held by particular groups within Canadian society;
  • what Canadians do when confronted with situations to which their values apply and in which their values conflict; and
  • whether available citizenship materials reflect the citizenship values to which Canadians subscribe.
  • the attitudes, knowledge, skills and behaviours, not only among students, but among citizens in general, in the domain of citizenship;
  • how research can guide the implementation of “good citizen practices” despite the difficulty defining the concept of “good citizen;”
  • how skills, attitudes and knowledge of citizenship guides behaviour;
  • the influence of pedagogical approaches in the transmission and acquisition of citizenship concepts; and
  • how a sense of efficacy be developed so that students are confident that they can contribute as citizens to the evolution of society.

The Network has since expanded to include a broad collection of work that explores the nature and form of citizenship and citizenship education in Canada locally, nationally, and globally, including consideration of the nature of belonging in Canada today, social inequalities, Indigenous perspectives, and inclusion. CERN also includes work exploring the nature and processes of citizenship and citizenship education through studies in de-colonization, anti-racism, and environmental stewardship.

CERN Journal: Citizenship Education Research Journal

The journal was developed in order to disseminate scholarly work on citizenship and citizenship education presented at CERN sessions at the Canadian Society for the Study of Education (CSSE)’s national conference with the general academic and educational communities, as well as civil society. The journal began by offering presenters an opportunity to revise and elaborate on the work they presented at the conference based on feedback and discussions at CSSE. Initially, the journal was called CERN Collections, and was first published in 2011.

The journal has now expanded in scope. It publishes applied and theoretical research papers related to citizenship education that advance scholarly knowledge in the field across educational jurisdictions in Canada and beyond. Papers are research or conceptually-based as well as local and international in scope. The journal has two sections: a peer reviewed section, and an opinion/perspective section. The latter provides a space for the discussion of contemporary ideas and issues related to citizenship education that have not been fully developed into research papers. The journal’s current issue, as well as archives of previous editions dating back to 2011, are available online through the UBC Okanagan Journals site.

The journal welcomes new submissions and those interested in serving as reviewers.

Read the Journal

CERN: Newletters

We feature the work of current scholars and grad students in our newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter by emailing

Latest newsletters

Call for Submissions, Deadline Oct. 1

Fall Newsletter, November 2022

Submit your work

Submissions should range from 150 to 500 words. Photos and other artistic visuals are encouraged.

Email your submission to Dr. Catherine Broom, Associate Professor,

The Historical Background of CERN

Federal Interests

Realizing that in the next decade Canadians would face hard questions about the future of their country, five federal departments came together in 1996-1997 to share their policy and research interests and plans with respect to an overarching concern with social cohesion. Canadian Heritage, Citizenship and Immigration, Human Resources Development, Justice and Industry Canada agreed that constructive synergies could be achieved between them on a significant number of research interests. Formed in November 1996, the federal Policy Research Sub-Committee on Social Cohesion discussed long-term policy research requirements, developed a research inventory and set the stage for the development of a Social Cohesion Research Workplan (March 1997). Three research themes were agreed upon: Fault Lines, Axes of Community Identification and Implications of Changes in Social Cohesion. Within these themes, several issues were germane to the CERN initiative; these were: civic education and knowledge of Canada; Canadian values; national identity and community attachment. The common interests of researchers and a supporting federal department came together within the CERN initiative.

Making History

The resulting Citizenship Education Think Tank was held on March 27-31, 1998 at the Kananaskis Field Station of the University of Calgary, in Alberta. Not since 1919 had a group of concerned Canadians come together in a concerted national effort to discuss citizenship education. At that time, a major conference, organized by predominantly business interests, was held in the wake of the Winnipeg Strike of 1915 to consider the development of a stable and productive citizenry. As a result of the Kananaskis discussions, which focused on the papers, participants’ interests and experiences, as well as what research was needed to guide action in this domain, four research themes (Citizen Conceptions, Citizen Practices, Citizenship Values and Principles, and Citizenship Skills, Knowledge, Attitudes and Behaviours) emerged and were the object of group consensus at the Kananaskis Think Tank.