The Pedagogy of Citizen Participation in Local government: Designing and implementing effective board training programs for municipalities and counties

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Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration


Although there are some general resources for citizens who are appointed or elected to local government boards, there is a clear need to develop comprehensive and context-specific training material to better prepare citizens for public service and board governance. This study details the development, delivery, and impact of a structured curriculum developed by the authors and used for citizen board training in Montana. The curriculum covers four key areas: (1) Foundations of governance (such as relevant statutes, including state constitutional provisions on the right to participate and right to know, and good governance principles); (2) effective meeting techniques, with a focus on procedural methods such as Robert’s Rules of Order; (3) conflict management; and (4) leadership and team-building skills. Curricular materials include a detailed handbook, case study exercises, relevant handouts and worksheets, and Web based resources such as podcasts. At the end of the training, we asked participants to self-evaluate their level of change in terms of knowledge and behavior, using both print and online surveys with Likert-scale items and open-ended questions. We used the responses to measure the impact of the educational program; analysis showed a positive change in participants’ knowledge and behavior as a result of the training. Strengths, challenges, and implications of the current training curriculum, as well as further program refinement and its delivery in various contexts, are presented and discussed.



Political science, Public policy


Lachapelle, P.R. and E.A. Shanahan. 2010. The pedagogy of citizen participation in local government: Designing and implementing effective board training programs for municipalities and counties. Journal of Public Affairs Education. 16(3):401-419.
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