Toward a Civil Society: Civic Literacy and Service Learning

Service Learning as Justice Advocacy: Can Political Scientists Do Politics?
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History departments are increasingly offering and sometimes requiring courses on the history of democratic institutions, social movements, and civic action e.

Toward a Civil Society : Civic Literacy and Service Learning -

Tosh asserted that citizens' abilities to examine issues of public interest in their historical contexts are essential in a thriving democracy and he invoked the concept of public history. Additionally, the American Psychological Association APA has taken a positive stance toward activities that foster students' action and sense of responsibility in the community APA, Employers often report that the technical skills that have dominated the 20th century are important especially for those entering science, technology, engineering, and mathematics [STEM] fields , but these skills are not sufficient for prospering in the global economy of today.

Hart Research Associates, , A second way in which civic competency and engagement have been related to workplace readiness is through studies of organizational citizenship behavior OCB. The civic virtue dimension of OCB pertains to employees taking an active interest in improving the social and psychological environments of the organizations in which they work.

In fact, attention to civic competency and engagement is particularly appropriate in higher education because this is a developmental period when students are choosing career paths and acquiring both specialized knowledge or skills and the behaviors required to succeed in a job and as a citizen or member of the community. A review of civic missions across higher education institutions concluded that civic development is both a public good i.

A number of labels e. The lack of a coherent definition has also been recognized as a general problem. Additionally, a number of challenges are associated with measuring an individual's civic competency and engagement. The issue of psychometric quality will be discussed later in sections on reliability and validity.

As illustrated by the previous discussion, it is an appropriate time to look at the variety of ways in which civic competency and engagement have been defined and assessed across the wide range of higher education institutions in the United States. There are growing calls for recognition of students' achievements in this area.

In particular, Holland has persuasively argued that at this time of rapid change in higher education—in its economic models, the diversity of its students, the modes of teaching, and the criteria associated with institutional reputation—the field needs to move toward coherent and shared definitions of terms such as civic engagement , civic motivation , and civic achievement.

Department of Education, In the remainder of the paper, we acknowledge the overarching construct of civic learning while distinguishing between civic competency i. Professional organizations, governmental entities, think tanks, scholars from universities, and experts from foundations have provided definitions and frameworks in an attempt to establish more coherent approaches to constructs related to civic competency and engagement at all levels of education.

Table 1 presents more than a dozen definitional frameworks, primarily from organizations with an interest in higher education in the United States. Table 2 presents a structured summary of assessments measuring constructs in the categories of civic competency and civic engagement. The majority of the organizations whose conceptual frameworks are found in Table 1 also appear together with some specifics of their assessments in Table 2. In other words, the entries in Table 1 were in most cases intended by their authors for use both as frameworks to develop programs and as guidelines for assessments.

However, a number of frameworks have also been developed for the purpose of guiding instrument or assessment design and not primarily for program guidance. Frameworks that fall into this category are found only in Table 2 e. Saltmarsh , a scholar who studies the ways that engagement for democracy could transform higher education, defined civic learning as the learning and development of an ability for effective civic engagement by the process of acquiring knowledge e. Similar to the approach of Saltmarsh, these definitions and conceptual frameworks identify civic knowledge, skills, values, dispositions, and behaviors as part of the learning outcomes that college graduates should possess to be prepared, knowledgeable, active, and engaged citizens e.

Nearly all agree that civic learning is a construct of a multidimensional nature.

Also relevant is Hurtado et al. The authors describe this framework for civic learning as integrating both content and pedagogy with civic learning outcomes in institutions of higher education. They consider civic learning as including the knowledge, skills, values, and capacities that students ought to possess to be actively and purposefully engaged in society. The civic learning outcomes highlighted in their model include understanding of self and others, civic awareness, integration of learning, pluralistic orientation, critical consciousness and action, social agency, civic engagement in public forums, political engagement, and knowledge of different cultures and sensitivity to the issues of racism.

This scope is summarized in the social change model and includes collaboration, common purpose, and controversy with civility under group process values and citizenship and change toward a better society under community and societal values; Higher Education Research Institute [HERI], Moving to another foundational project, PEP began in the early s and involved research on 21 campuses nationwide see Table 1. The effort was intended to influence both programs and assessments.

The project concentrated more than most on activities with some political not only civic content. The continuing programmatic efforts of AASCU are housed in the American Democracy Project, which has several components, each led by specific campuses that are members of the organization.

All these projects are promoting knowledge that is both fundamental and applied to understanding current issues, as well as enhancing skills and motivation. There has been recent attention to online activities in the eCitizenship Project, which focuses on the use of social networks and policy tools for civic purposes AASCU, and to a Global Engagement Initiative.

An overall blueprint for these activities can be found in Stepping Forward as Stewards of Place AASCU, , which is intended to anchor institutions in the communities and regions in which they are located. The DQP describes civic and global learning as the effective preparation of students in institutions of higher education for responsible, interactive, and productive citizenship. In their view, students at the bachelor's level should be able to explain diverse positions on issues, develop and justify positions on a public issue, collaborate with others when developing and implementing an approach to a civic issue, and identify significant issues affecting people throughout the world Adelman et al.

These students should also be able to apply skills to contribute to the good of a democratic society Adelman et al. The National Task Force report pointed to the DQP as a rich resource that exemplifies the components of civic learning outcomes for institutions of higher education. These components of civic learning are further embedded within the other learning areas of the DQP such as broad, integrative knowledge, which includes global, intercultural, and democratic civic learning, and also intellectual skills, which includes engagement of diverse perspectives Adelman et al.

Use of the term global expands civic learning beyond the local and national levels.

Toward a Civil Society

Additionally, possessing civic and global learning proficiencies prepares the student to respond to societal challenges in the micro and macro communities through activities that include service learning Adelman et al. In addition to the three foundational projects reviewed above, several other conceptual frameworks are found in Table 1. Likewise, HERI uses the term social agency and considers the extent to which college students value social and political involvement as personal goals e. HERI administers the annual College Senior Survey CSS; see Table 2 that connects academic, civic, and diversity outcomes with a comprehensive set of college experiences to make inferences about civic learning in college Franke et al.

Another noteworthy framework was developed by CIRCLE, which issued and widely disseminated a paper on federal policy with the potential to enhance civic skills, including the ability to distinguish facts from opinions and to critically analyze political information CIRCLE, It focuses on the integration of civic dimensions into knowledge obtained through study in a wide range of disciplines.

In addition to student leadership, they focus on civic values e.

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Addressing the need for marshaling the resources of education to help promote a more civil society, this book argues that education has a critical role to play in. Lisman's book is a great read for anyone interested in service-learning pedagogy . Within a field so many scholars have claimed lacks an explicit methodology.

Although the labeling of the components that make up civic competency and engagement differs somewhat across domestic and international contexts, the structure and even the content of the constructs is quite similar. Specifically, both groups include a civic or citizenship competency i.

Assessments in the area of civic learning are also gaining importance see Table 2. Measures of cognitive and attitudinal outcomes have existed in the United States since at least the early s when the first NAEP Civics Assessment took place.

The Case of California State University, Monterey Bay

Data were collected at more than universities in the United States. Within the last few years, it has become possible to disaggregate voting turnout percentages for students, and these summary figures can be reported to institutions of higher education CIRCLE, At the same time, assessment of students' civic outcomes at the institutional level has become feasible.

Policy Reforms and Practice

For example, critical literacy is fundamental to effective citizenship but is also the specific focus of language arts curricula as well as other subject areas across the curriculum. A key cause has been low levels of data literacy among individuals and organisations who could benefit from open data. While affirming the positive ways that community colleges benefit their communities, this paper argues that by becoming more civically engaged through initiatives such as service-learning, community colleges and their students can become leaders in solving public problems with community partners. Add to List. Developing campus-community relationships. While not everyone will be engaged in formal politics to a substantial degree, — it is unlikely, for example, that the majority of citizens will ever run for office or even join a political party — to completely exclude oneself from the domain is not healthy for democracy. The three larger colleges were at an intermediate level, while the six smaller colleges were at a beginning level.

A wide range of projects in the United States and Europe at the secondary and postsecondary levels have constructed objective knowledge and skills items. Other assessments have been designed for program evaluations and especially for service learning or community engagement programs.

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The multidimensional nature of civic learning has led to assessments that can be classified under two major constructs: civic competency and civic engagement see Table 2. Measures related to civic competency have focused on topics such as history, political science, economics, democracy, citizenship, civic principles, society, and government and include measures such as the U.

Bentley Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Center - Faculty

Naturalization Exam U. They examined data on percentage answering correctly ranging over several decades. The book's appendix lists a wide variety of knowledge items. Even though this assessment focuses on the general information literacy of students, some skills that are assessed directly relate to civic learning, such as the skills in evaluating sources and in recognizing social or ethical issues. Measures of civic engagement cover topics such as national identity, attitudes toward social cohesion and diversity, civic participation and activities, electoral and political activities, democratic values, beliefs about citizens' efficacy, dispositions, and behavioral intentions.

A number of these civic engagement measures have been used in major studies. Findings from the Wabash Study revealed that students' political and social involvement increased slightly by 0. The CPHS was used to evaluate how 1, young people ages 15—25 and adults age 26 and over participated in politics and community activities, as well as their attitudes toward government and current issues. Additionally, results revealed that many Americans are misinformed and lack political knowledge Lopez et al.

The first part includes written short answers and an essay, while a second part is comprised of a controlled project assessment completed by the examinee with teacher oversight; Brett, Both parts of the examination deal with applying cognitive skills as well as factual or conceptual learning. For instance, the U. For several decades, public opinion organizations have administered knowledge items to adults in phone interviews; the focus is generally on current events knowledge usually about national and foreign policy issues.

Reliability estimates range from. Whether the internal reliability for an assessment is acceptable or not hinges on the testing purpose and the context of score use Haertel, For instance, assessments that are used for admission to an institution of higher education would require higher levels of reliability than assessments to compare groups of individuals.

Many existing civic assessments have reported subscores with reliability estimates above. However, some existing measures have some subscores that have not met the criteria for satisfactory reliability. For instance, on the PEP instrument, four of the 30 scales showed lower internal consistency ranging from. This finding was likely related to only 3 or 4 items in those subscales.

Depending on the stakes of these assessments, even these reliabilities could be considered adequate. Although the subscores reported by many existing measures have demonstrated satisfactory reliabilities, there has been little evidence demonstrating subscore distinctiveness.