Diversity and Democracy

Leveraging the LEAP Framework to Advance Civic Knowledge

As institutions and state systems undertake educational reform and renewal activities, they can leverage the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) framework to ensure civic learning and engagement outcomes are embedded into the fabric of the resulting curricular structures and pedagogical practices (see https://www.aacu.org/leap).

The LEAP framework begins with a set of essential learning outcomes (ELOs) that provide the foundation for a contemporary liberal education, including knowledge of human cultures and the physical and natural world, intellectual and practical skills, personal and social responsibility (including civic knowledge and engagement), and integrative and applied learning. Functionally, LEAP’s ELOs have served many in higher education as a menu of possible outcomes to consider as they rethink their curriculum. For example, adopting the LEAP framework, including civic knowledge and engagement, in a general education reform effort would connect curricular reform to civic learning goals and would result in the long-term implementation of civic learning at an institution.

LEAP also suggests high-impact educational practices, which have been shown to result in deep learning gains. Several of these practices are well-established civic learning pedagogies such as service learning and community-based learning. In addition, LEAP encourages practitioners to examine students’ work to gauge how well they have developed the capacities the ELOs represent. LEAP provides a set of sixteen Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE) rubrics to assist in this assessment, including one specifically on civic engagement (see https://www.aacu.org/civic-engagement-value-rubric). Practitioners can also use the Civic Engagement VALUE Rubric in faculty development efforts to ensure that pedagogy and assignments align with the specific elements that make up the civic engagement learning outcome.

Those wishing to establish civic learning and engagement as a signature element of their institution or system’s educational culture are encouraged to revisit the LEAP framework. To help campuses make successful transitions to LEAP and to leverage VALUE’s opportunities, AAC&U offers a range of conferences, institutes, publications, and webinars, many available virtually at https://www.aacu.org.


C. Edward Watson is Chief Information Officer and Associate Vice President for Quality, Pedagogy, and LEAP Initiatives in the Office of Quality, Curriculum, and Assessment at the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

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