Crafting civic curricula: developing instruction that shapes student attitudes and behaviors





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This project investigates the following question: How does college-level coursework with a focus on civic engagement shape the political attitudes and behaviors of participating students? Determining effective strategies for civic education is critical because American democratic success relies on civic-minded citizens. Simply conveying facts in a passive classroom environment is inadequate for restoring a leading civic role for our colleges and universities. It is well-established that purposefully designed curricula have a more significant impact on student engagement. This project involves conducting a series of surveys in a recent State and Local Politics undergraduate course in order to evaluate the effectiveness of three major civic engagement-focused curricular components and assessing the course as a whole. The curricular components included (1) a Minnesota Caucus Night presentation/simulation, (2) a lobbying presentation/simulation, and (3) a class conversation with the Minnesota Secretary of State. In each component, the objective was to produce specific civic behavioral outcomes. In order to assess the primary research question, five related hypotheses are advanced. These hypotheses are assessed using a range of quantitative measures and open-ended qualitative responses from participating students. Survey results clearly demonstrate a positive impact on student state/national political knowledge as a result of the course. Quantitative assessments regarding political interest, trust, efficacy, and demonstrated/intended engagement all indicate measured increases over the period of the study. Related open ended student qualitative responses also support the hypotheses. Qualitative student responses also illustrate that those activities with a strong emphasis on political action techniques have the greatest effect on students' sense of political efficacy and trust. These components were seemingly effective because students were presented with an in-class venue to demonstrate civic skills before applying them to more intense real-world environments.

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