Teacher Candidates’ Policy Agency to Reframe the Meaning of Citizenship in the Ontario Secondary School Curriculum


  • Jesse K. Butler University of Ottawa
  • Peter Milley University of Ottawa


Curriculum policy implementation occurs within a network of state, district, school, and classroom level policies that operate within and around educators’ use of formal curriculum policy documents. Starting from this observation, we report a study of teacher candidates’ policy framing activities in their use of citizenship education curriculum policy documents in the Province of Ontario, Canada. We use a frame analysis methodology to examine how four teacher candidates from one Teacher Education Program in Ontario (1) frame citizenship, (2) perceive their use of the curriculum policy document, and (3) perceive the influence of a network of curriculum policy influences in their schools. Findings reveal that the candidates each have unique ways of framing citizenship, which align to varying degrees with how the documents frame citizenship. Candidates portray themselves as able to work around policy requirements and pressures where those are misaligned with their own framings of citizenship. They needed to do this to foster student civic action. On balance, broader policy pressures appear to reinforce formal curriculum policy that does not explicitly encourage civic engagement. We conclude the formal curriculum should incorporate a specific requirement in this area to provide policy leverage to educators interested in teaching through student civic action. We also take up the issue of potential politicization of the citizenship education through teacher education programs, with our findings suggesting this is highly unlikely.

Keywords: curriculum, policy, politics, citizenship, citizenship education, frame analysis, Canada, secondary school, high school

Author Biography

Jesse K. Butler, University of Ottawa

Jesse K. Butler is a Ph.D. candidate in the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa, specializing in the intersection of educational policy, secondary school curriculum, and citizenship education. His doctoral research was supported by a 2016-19 Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship. He has published in a number of peer-reviewed journals, including Urban Education, Educational Policy Analysis Archives, Citizenship Teaching & Learning, Canadian Journal of Educational Administration & Policy, and Citizenship Education Research Journal.




How to Cite

Butler, J., & Milley, P. (2020). Teacher Candidates’ Policy Agency to Reframe the Meaning of Citizenship in the Ontario Secondary School Curriculum. Canadian Journal of Education/Revue Canadienne De l’éducation, 43(4), 1131–1159. Retrieved from https://journals.sfu.ca/cje/index.php/cje-rce/article/view/4405