Institutional Goals for Civic Learning

The National Call to Action promulgated in the report, A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy's Future challenges higher education and all its stakeholders to focus with new intentionality on the role that education should play in helping all students prepare for their roles as citizens in this globally engaged and extraordinarily diverse democracy. The report calls for higher education to develop the "knowledge, skills, and experiences students need for responsible citizenship" as part of each student’s general education program. But civic inquiry and collaborative problem solving should also be included in students’ major programs, including programs that prepare graduates for immediate entry into careers.

A Framework for 21st Century Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement

A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy's Future provides a conceptual framework for the skills, knowledge, values, and actions that civic learning and democratic engagement should aim to develop in students.


  • Familiarity with key democratic texts and universal democratic principles, and with selected debates—in US and other societies—concerning their
  • Historical and sociological understanding of several democratic movements, both US and abroad
  • Understanding one’s sources of identity and their influence on civic values, assumptions, and responsibilities to a wider public
  • Knowledge of the diverse cultures, histories, values, and contestations
    that have shaped US and other world societies
  • Exposure to multiple religious traditions and to alternative views about the relation between religion and government.
  • Knowledge of the political systems that frame constitutional democracies and of political levers for influencing change.


  • Critical inquiry, analysis, and reasoning
  • Quantitative reasoning
  • Gathering and evaluating multiple sources of evidence
  • Seeking, engaging, and being informed by multiple perspectives
  • Written, oral, and multi-media communication
  • Deliberation and bridge building across differences
  • Collaborative decision making
  • Ability to communicate in multiple languages


  • Respect for freedom and human dignity
  • Empathy
  • Open-mindedness
  • Tolerance
  • Justice
  • Equality
  • Ethical integrity
  • Responsibility to a larger good

Collective Action

  • Integration of knowledge, skills, and examined values to inform actions taken in concert with other people
  • Moral discernment and behavior
  • Navigation of political systems and processes, both formal and informal
  • Public problem solving with diverse partners
  • Compromise, civility, and mutual respect

What would a Civic Minded Campus Look Like?

Civic ethos governing campus life

  • The infusion of democratic values into the customs and habits of everyday practices, structures, and interactions; the defining character of the institution and those in it that emphasizes open-mindedness,
    civility, the worth of each person, ethical behaviors, and concern for the well-being of others; a spirit of public-mindedness that influences the goals of the institution and its engagement with local and
    global communities.

Civic literacy as a goal for every student

  • The cultivation of foundational knowledge about fundamental principles and debates about democracy expressed over time, both within the United States and in other countries; familiarity with several key
    historical struggles, campaigns, and social movements undertaken to achieve the full promise of democracy; the ability to think critically about complex issues and to seek and evaluate information about issues that
    have public consequences.

Civic inquiry integrated within the majors and general education

  • The practice of inquiring about the civic dimensions and public consequences of a subject of study; the exploration of the impact of choices on different constituencies and entities, including the planet; the
    deliberate consideration of differing points of views; the ability to describe and analyze civic intellectual debates within one’s major or areas of study.

Civic action as lifelong practice

  • The capacity and commitment both to participate constructively with diverse others and to work collectively to address common problems; the practice of working in a pluralistic society and world to improve the quality of people’s lives and the sustainability of the planet; the ability to analyze systems in order to plan and engage in public action; the moral and political courage to take risks to achieve a greater public good.

Other Resources

Core Competencies in Civic Engagement: A Working Paper in the Center for an Engaged Democracy's Policy Paper's Series Developed by the Center for Engaged Democracy's Core Competencies Committee, Merrimack College.

Service Learning and Civic Engagement Program Models Developed by Campus Compact.

Resources for Faculty Developed by Campus Compact.