Civic Learning and Democratic Engagements: A Review of the Literature on Civic Engagement in Post‐Secondary Education
Published On: 
May 24, 2011

Civic Learning and Democratic Engagements: A Review of the Literature on Civic Engagement in Post‐Secondary Education

What civic engagement is, how students should go about it, and what it should do for them after the fact is both a philosophical debate and a research divide. Even a cursory review of the literature would demonstrate that we know the most about the empirical effects of civic engagement through the lens of service‐learning. Moreover, this research has produced a convincing amount of evidence on the positive effects of service‐learning across a range of student‐centered outcomes, including gains in learning, and aspects of personal and social development. But is service‐learning really civic engagement? A number of scholars have argued that most forms of service‐learning (or other forms of apolitical community engagement) fail to intentionally engage students in the activities and processes central to democratic‐building (i.e. deliberative dialogue, collaborative work, problem‐solving within diverse groups). In essence, these scholars argue it is not enough for students to engage in the community; they must also engage in the skills, values, and knowledge development that educate them to be better citizens.