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Author: Racine Jacques
Publication Date: Dec. 2015

About the Report

  • Teachers’ choices about the use of instructional practices affects more than what students know about civics and government; they also affect students’ civic involvement in the community
  • Overall, experiential learning and other “hands-on” instructional practices can have powerful effects on students’ level of civic involvement.
  • Incorporating community service/service learning as an instructional practice has strong effects on student civic engagement.
  • Debates and mock trials promote higher levels of student civic participation even if they only occur occasionally during the year.
  • Having community officials visit the class has a positive impact on student civic engagement, even if it occurs relatively rarely—once or twice a semester.
  • Even easily implemented practices such as discussion of current events and playing computer simulation games such as those available through iCivics can have a positive effect on building civic participation.

This Snapshot is one in a series highlighting results from the spring 2015 Civic Attitude and Engagement Survey. The Survey, conducted in May on behalf of the Partnership for Civic Learning, is based on the responses of more than 7,000 seventh grade students who were just completing a full year of civics instruction. Districts participating in the Survey included MiamiDade, Clay and St. Lucie. More information on the survey may be found in the “About the Survey” at the end of this Snapshot.

Civic education is intended to prepare students for their roles as engaged and responsible citizens in a democratic society. Thus, it is intended to provide students with knowledge about the system of government and civic life and to build the skills and civic dispositions associated with democratic citizenship. The Civics End-of-Course Assessment tests student knowledge, but does not assess civic skills and dispositions. That is the goal of the Civic Attitude and Engagement Survey.

In this Snapshot we consider the extent to which classroom experiences contribute to students’ civic participation in their communities both in an out of school.