Classrooms as Laboratories of Democracy for Social Transformation: The Role of Data Literacy

Thomas Philip, Laurie Rubel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In this chapter, we re-envision classrooms as “laboratories of democracy” (Guinier & Torres, 2002), or spaces of democratic participation where students purposefully use and repurpose quantitative literacies as they engage in the complexities of collective deliberation. We first outline our rationale for shifting from an individualistic lens that tends to highlight innumeracy to a collective lens that allows researchers and educators to better notice and build on situated numeracy. We then elaborate Guinier and Torres’ (2002) notion of “laboratories of democracy” through a brief discussion of “power-with democracy.” We use these constructs to critically re-examine our prior efforts to incorporate data literacy into classrooms (see Footnote 2 regarding our use of data literacy rather than quantitative literacy). To add nuance to our vision of classrooms as laboratories of democracy, we contextualize the potential role of data literacy in these spaces by exploring the risks of prioritizing data literacy over democratic deliberation. We therefore argue for making space for “laboratories of democracy” within classrooms, where students can learn data literacy as they practice “power-with” democracy.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationShifting Contexts, Stable Core
Subtitle of host publicationAdvancing Quantitative Literacy in Higher Education
EditorsL. Tunstall, V. Piercey, G. Karaali
PublisherMathematical Association of America
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)ISBN 978-1614443247
StatePublished - 24 Oct 2019


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