Democs is part card game, part policy-making tool that enables small groups of people to engage with complex public policy issues. This case study explores its introduction to the classroom through various complex scientific issues.
Democs (DEliberative Meeting Of CitizenS) is a conversation card-based activity, i.e. a discussion-based learning tool for dealing with controversial issues. It enables students to find out about a topic, form their opinions, discuss the topic with others, and vote on what they would recommend that the Government or other decision-makers should do.
• Develop an existing adult version of the Democs board game into one that could be specifically used by schools.
• Develop and refine training in facilitating Democs for professionals who work with young people.
• Enhance the ability of students to understand and discuss sensitive and complex issues.
• The project focused on engaging young people with a number of topics covered in Key Stage 3 (vaccinations policy, animal experimentation and climate change) and Key Stage 4 (neuroscience, genetically modified food, and stem cell research).
• A range of kits were produced to cover the different Key Stages and age ranges, and to offer a choice of topics for both schools and youth groups. These kits were trialled with young people at the BA Festival of Science in Belfast, then edited and revised to ensure they were appropriate for the two audiences.
• A second set of trialling was carried out in three schools and six final versions of the game were produced. At the same time a training programme and support materials were developed for teachers to help them facilitate the games.
Young people who took part in the Democs card game gave very positive feedback with 74% saying they had enjoyed the experience. The vast majority of teachers (more than 70%) felt that as a result of playing the game, their students:
• Knew more about the scientific facts, concepts and terminology of the topic under discussion
• Were able to evaluate the impact of scientific development or processes on people, communities and the environment
• Had been able to present information, develop an argument and draw conclusions
• Had interpreted and questioned scientific ideas
More than three-quarters of the teachers who took part felt the training they had received had allowed them to facilitate the game effectively so that their students got the most out of it. Overall teachers felt the project:
• Provided a way of holding a discussion and consultation on what were complex and technical topics
• Allowed flexibility and informality in the discussions so that everyone was encouraged to take part and air their views
• Helped to involve those who didn’t readily take to science as a subject
• Was inexpensive and therefore accessible to anyone who wanted to join in
The collection of Democs for Schools kits now includes:
New Economics Foundation
Gather individual pre-existing opinions
Gather informed and considered opinions (deliberation)
Generate new ideas (innovation)
Number of participants
A Group which broadly reflects the Demographic make up of a certain community or population
Level of awareness and interest
participants need information and cannot articulate their interests
participants know about some aspects/can roughly articulate some interest
Limit search to...
... face to face processes
Level of involvement
Children and young people