Civic Learning and Democratic Engagements: A Review of the Literature on Civic Engagement in Post-Secondary Education
Published On: 
January 10, 2012

A Brief Review of the Evidence on Civic Learning in Higher Education

Distributed at the Association of American Colleges & Universities 2012 Annual Meeting in conjunction with the release of A Crucible Moment: College Learning & Democracy's Future, this review includes six essential findings on students' civic learning and engagement:

  • More than 70 percent of all college students report participating in some form of volunteering, community service, or service learning during their time in college.
  • About one-half of college students report participating in credit-bearing service learning activities during their time in college.
  • Dozens of studies show that service learning is positively associated with a variety of civic learning outcomes.
  • Emerging evidence suggests that the more frequently students participate in a continuum of civic learning practices (e.g. service learning, meaningful cross-racial interactions on campus or in classrooms, or real-world problem-based learning), the more they make gains on a variety of civic outcomes.
  • Although over forty percent of all college students are enrolled at public two-year institutions, only about a quarter of these students report taking a course that included a service-learning experience.
  • Despite a wealth of positive evidence related to service-learning experiences, findings on a range of civic measures and social responsibility outcomes compared over time suggest that students’ civic learning is neither robust nor pervasive.