May 17, 2024

Civic Learning in Higher Education: What Works?


Measurement Working Group  

In May 2023, the Institute for Citizens & Scholars and Claremont McKenna College partnered to convene a “Bell Labs” working group of campus leaders, researchers, and faculty focused on civic learning in higher education. Intended to support field-building and effective intervention, the Measurement Working Group utilized research conducted by Citizens & Scholars, Mapping Civic Measurement, that provides a landscape analysis of all the ways to measure civic readiness (an individual’s preparation to be an effective citizen) and civic opportunities (systems, platforms, programs, laws and processes for individuals and groups to practice and build civic readiness).   

 Over the course of 18 months, participants were provided the tools, resources, support, and peer convenings to strengthen their own approaches to assessing civic learning and leadership. The Working Group helped build a more comprehensive network of institutions committed to this work, a stronger knowledge base, and better achievement across higher education.   

Participating Institutions  

The following institutions participated in the 2023 cohort: 

 Claremont McKenna College  

Cornell University  

Georgetown University  

James Madison University  

Middlebury College  

Montclair State University  

Rutgers University   

Stanford University  

University of Notre Dame  

University of Richmond  

Wellesley College  

Wesleyan University  


Participant Spotlight  

Elizabeth Matto
Director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics/Co-Chair of the Civic Engagement Task Force
Rutgers University  

As Rutgers develops university-wide efforts that promise to impact students’ civic readiness and opportunities, Elizabeth Matto and her campus partners have designed research components to assess the outcomes of these initiatives. They seek to embed measures of civic readiness (critical thinking, public decision-making, and civic identity) into the Rutgers Scarlet Service Internship (RSSI) Program, Rutgers Scarlet Service in Washington, DC (RSS-DC) program, and first-year learning experiences in the summer and fall of 2024 pending IRB approval. The Civic Engagement Task Force, launched by President Holloway during the 2023-2024 school year and co-led by Matto, will submit a report to the President’s Office in June 2024 that will contain recommendations for years 1-3 of implementation.  

David E. Campbell
Packey J. Dee Professor of American Democracy and Director, Notre Dame Democracy Initiative
University of Notre Dame   

Notre Dame has made promoting, sustaining, and studying democracy a top priority by establishing a university-wide Democracy Initiative. As part of the Initiative, Dr. Campbell and his team created the Notre Dame Health of Democracy Study – a twice-annual survey of the national population on support for democratic values. The University has conducted a parallel study—using the same items—of its own student body. This will enable the comparison of Notre Dame students to the nation as a whole, as well as establish a baseline to evaluate the effectiveness of student-facing efforts to foster democratic values on campus.   

College Presidents for Civic Preparedness continues to monitor the outcomes of these Working Group initiatives and will offer updates to members throughout the year.