On January 6, 2021, the nation watched in horror as rioters entered the United States Capitol building to delay the electoral college vote count. The cumulative effect of years of misinformation, polarization and elevated rhetoric have resulted in a severely compromised system of democracy. As the next generation of leaders take up the project of democratic renewal, they will need to:

  • Combat the spread of internet misinformation,
  • Look beyond online echo-chambers and internet outrage language to build a healthier online public sphere, and
  • Rebuild institutions that have systematically disadvantaged our most vulnerable communities through civic action.

Our Civic Literacy, Actioning, and Reasoning in Online Networks (CLARION) project is a collaboration between the Departments of Teacher Education and Child and Adolescent Development at the SJSU Lurie College of Education to create new models of civic education that position youth to participate in U.S. Democracy as it exists today--not just as it has existed in the past 435 years.

We work with youth, educators and community partners to design curricula and create learning environments that put youth voices at the center and support them to become informed, empowered and ethical advocates for their communities. We begin with students' lived experiences and ask how they can use social media and digital tools to learn about, discuss, and work to address the problems we face. 

The CLARION Model for Civic Education

What skills are needed for civic engagement in the digital age? Our conceptual framework for online civic inquiry, discourse, and action consists of 3 primary components with 9 sub-components to engage students:

CLARION Project Conceptual Framekwork

Civic Inquiry

  • Information Search and Curation | Using advanced search strategies and manage large volumes of information
  • Critical Analysis | Evaluating the credibility of online info. and practice these habits outside of school
  • Information Synthesis | Integrating information from formal sources and informal personal testimony/experience to inform personal perspective

Civic Dialogue

  • Collaborative Dialogue | Adopting conversational moves that establish common goals, invite multiple perspectives, and facilitate shared reasoning
  • Deliberative Reasoning | Framing questions, elaborating and critiquing diverse options based on evidence, and synthesizing solutions
  • Decision Making | Collaborating on decisions for civic action

Civic Action

  • Public Engagement | Using the internet to express and advocate for their political views constructively
  • Information Sharing | Sharing online information ethically and strategically to foster public discourse and community
  • Advocacy and Action | Using the internet as a resource to find or organize opportunities to take civic action in collaboration with relevant coalitions.

Meet the CLARION Project Team

Core Team

CLARION Project Core Team

Affiliated Student Researchers

Research Partners

Media and Presentations

Around the world, we have seen an explosion of youth activism. Social media has played an important role in helping youth express their voices. We also know that online comments can be brutal and people can feel silenced, especially those who are just learning to express their political views. So we ask - what creates the conditions for productive online civic discourse? Watch this video to learn more!

Related Research

Ellen Middaugh, PhD

  • Middaugh, E. (Under Review). Online conflict in civic discourse: Impact of incidental exposure on youth civic engagement.
  • Middaugh, E. (2019). More than just facts: Promoting civic media literacy in the era of outrage. Peabody Journal of Education. DOI: 10.1080/0161956X.2019.1553582
  • Middaugh, E. (2018). Civic media literacy in a transmedia world: Balancing personal experience, factual accuracy and emotional appeal as media consumers and circulators. Journal of Media Literacy Education, 10(2), 33-52.

Mark Felton, PhD

  • Felton, M. & Crowell, A. (in press). Argumentation as a collaborative enterprise: A study of dialogic purpose and dialectical relevance in novice and experienced arguers. Informal Logic.
  • Hendriks, F., Mayweg-Paus, E., Felton, M., Iordanou, K., Jucks, R., & Zimmermann, M. (2020). Constraints and Affordances of Online Engagement With Scientific Information—A Literature Review. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 3458. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.572744
  • Felton, M., Crowell, A., Garcia-Mila, M. & Villarroel, C. (2019). Capturing collaborative argument: An analytic scheme for coding deliberative dialogue. Learning, Cognition and Social Interaction. Advance online publication DOI: 10.1016/j.lcsi.2019.100350
  • Felton, M., Garcia-Mila, M., Villarroel, C. and Gilabert, S. (2015). Arguing collaboratively: Argumentative discourse types and their potential for knowledge building. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 85, 372-386.

Mariah Kornbluh, PhD

  • Kornbluh. M., Bell, S., Vierra, K., Herrnstadt, Z. (2021). Spaces of resistance: Examining the relationship between cross-cultural leadership programming and school engagement. Journal of Adolescent Research. DOI: 10.1177/07435584211006920
  • Kornbluh, M., Johnson, L., Hart, M. (2021). Shards from the glass ceiling: Exploring multi-level constructs of critical consciousness. American Journal of Community Psychology.
  • Bell, S., & Kornbluh, M. (2019). Networking in the digital age: Identifying factors that influence adolescents’ online communication and relationship building. Applied Developmental Sciences.
  • Kornbluh, M., Neal, J. W., & Ozer, E. J. (2016). Scaling‐up youth‐led social justice efforts through an online school‐based social network. American Journal of Community Psychology, 57(3-4), 266-279. DOI: 10.1002/ajcp.12042

Select Presentations

  • Felton, M., Middaugh, E. and Fan, H. (2021). Facts don’t speak for themselves: Discussing evidence about Covid-19 in three Reddit communities. Paper presented at the Biennial Meeting of the European Association for Research in Teaching and Learning.
  • Middaugh, E. & Felton, M. (2021). Capturing nuance on social media: Attending to the role of platform, topic and dialogic aims in online political discourse. Paper presented at Pragmasophia 3.
  • Middaugh, E., Felton, M., & Fan, H. (2021). “People can get really harsh,” Supporting youth engagement with contemporary issues through social media. Symposium paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA).
  • Middaugh, E., Felton, M., & Fan, H. (2020). Building productive online civic discourse: Examining the intersection of platform, issue and individual aims. Panel paper presented at the Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2020. Dublin, Ireland.

Relevant Courses

  • ChAD 76: Child Development among Media and Emerging Technologies. This course fulfills the Area D GE requirement and will be offered in Spring 2022. View the ChAD 76 syllabus (Google Doc)


The CLARION Project is supported by several generous funding sources: