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Six Research-Based Proven Practices in Civic Education

The good news is that educators and their partners can make a difference in helping students to become engaged, informed and effective citizens. Guardian of Democracy: The Civic Mission of Schools report released September, 2011 from the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, the Public Education Division of the American Bar Association and other national organizations, presents civic education policy recommendations and the following six research based proven practices for strengthening civic education in our schools:

The report specifically urges dynamic and interactive teaching methods rather than “teaching by rote,” since drier methods may alienate students from politics.

The report urges discussion of issues students find personally relevant, conducted in a way that encourages multiple points of view.

The report urges giving students a role in choosing and designing volunteer activities; articulating explicit civic outcomes; linking service to curricular study; and providing opportunities and vehicles for critical reflection. These recommendations are in keeping with “best practice” principles in service-learning.

The report does not specify favored co-curricular activities. Rather, it acknowledges that learning takes place within and beyond school walls, and it encourages extracurricular efforts to strengthen young peoples’ involvement in an array of social and civic institutions.

The report urges students to take an active role in classroom and school governance matters as a means for practicing civic participation skills. However, the report does not specify the scope and parameters of student involvement.

The report argues that engaging students in simulations of voting, trials, legislative deliberation, and diplomacy can lead to heightened political knowledge and interest.

Additional Research and Tips

The Civic Engagement Research Group at Mill College (CERG) identifies these additional research-based effective civic learning opportunities:

  • Interact with Civic Role Models
  • Learning about Community Problems and Strategies to Respond

      Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools – a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, provides a summary of civic education research, as well as policy recommendations and updates on relevant education policy.

      CIRCLE – the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement–is the leading organization for research on youth civic-engagement, with links to hundreds of working papers and relevant studies.

      NAEP, National Assessment of Educational Progress at Grades 4, 8 and 12. The Nation’s Report Card, Civics, 2010
      This report assesses students’ understanding of the foundational institutions and ideals needed for active and responsible citizens. In 2010, this report from the national center for education statistics (IES) and the US Department of Education, found that just 27% of fourth-graders, 22% of eighth-graders, and 24% of twelfth-graders performed at or above the Proficient level in civics in 2010

      Paths to 21st Century Competencies through Civic Education Classrooms. An Analysis of Survey Results from Ninth-Graders
      This report demonstrates that civic education provides students with critical skills and competencies needed for the 21st century, including basic knowledge of economic and political processes, the ability to work with well with others, especially diverse groups and creativity and innovation.