CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.
The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

CIRCLE Online Seminar: Stitching Together a Field of Diverse Efforts

February 7th, 2014
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The Conversation Thus Far

Last week, over 30 participants in our real-time conversation tackled questions about how they saw the two fundamental goals (democratic deliberation & equity and quality of political engagement) outlined in All Together Now, playing out in their work. The conversation, which continued into the Facebook group during week 3, has included ideas about:

  • How to provide opportunities to youth who traditionally do not have them: this topic included questions around how to avoid self selection and find students who may gravitate towards these opportunities. One of our featured speakers, Mark Favors, emphasized meeting kids where they are, and providing opportunities for new ideas. Building communities & opportunities outside of formal education was also discussed.
    • There was a conversation around the question “How does using paid opportunities change who selects into opportunities? What impact does it have on long-term participation?” came up. YouthBuild USA was one example that was shared on how paid opportunities could foster engagement.
  • Higher Education partnerships with community-based organizations: One participant wrote on Twitter “It’s important to change from a K-12 vs. College story and find ways to increase K-16 outreach.” Featured speaker Mercedes Soto from Cambridge, MA shared that the “Harvard’s Phillips Brooks House Association ( is a really good model for how students at universities connect and partner with low-income communities to promote social justice and create positive change in communities.”

To learn more about what was discussed, check out the live chat recording for week 2. We’ll catch you up on week 3, but in the meantime, the recording for the live chat from week 3 also available.

A Multi-Sector Effort is Needed

The All Together Now’s key recommendations (pp. 27-36) center on the idea that improving youth civic and political engagement is a multi-sector endeavor which include not only educators and policy makers, but families and community leaders. In fact, research for the report showed us that one sector cannot change dynamics along individual sectors need to strengthen and build upon “what works”, cross sector collaboration, communication and learning is vitally necessary to move youth engagement levels significantly from where they have been for years.

Since the report’s release in October 2013, CIRCLE has published and promoted a number of additional materials for various sectors. These include:

  • How Civic Leaders Can Use the report
    A one-page info and action guide that encourages civic leaders to question civic reform proposals, support teachers who are and want to use promising practices, and promote the development of civic skills as well as knowledge. Informs leaders of the positive long-term effects of better civic education and the major gaps in exposure and quality of civic education opportunities,
  • How Education Organizations Can Use the report
    A one-page urging education organizations to make civic education their concern and not accept the current results in civics, especially for students how lack exposure to high-quality civic education opportunities. Like the guide for civic leaders, this guide encourages educational organizations to question civic reform proposals, support teachers who are and want to use promising practices, and promote the development of civic skills as well as knowledge.
  • An Individual Teacher Reflection Guide
    A set of considerations to improve both the curricular content and content delivery that would support effective civics learning strategies such as discussion of current and controversial issues, simulations, and assessments that measure skills as well as knowledge. Also asks teachers to consider the quality and type of professional development they have and should push for to improve civic education for their students.
  • Information Literacy in High School Civics
    With news sources changing rapidly and fragmenting along ideological lines, understanding how to use news and information media (“information literacy”) is an important civic skill. Teacher needs support, training and better assessment tools in their quest to educate our young people to be more info literate.
  • Crucial Role for Higher Ed in Building Youth Civic Engagement
    As the home for teacher education and many other civic and political learning activities, higher can provide civic opportunities for their students, enable student voting and voter registration, make civic work an institutional value, prepare the future teachers and leaders of tomorrow and use their convening power to focus resources. Higher Education’s research mission can serve to promote community-based research and journalism as well as add new knowledge about innovative youth civic engagement strategies.

CIRCLE has not fully explored recommendations for reaching families and individual youth.  We continue to look to the field for what is working in these sectors.  Yet is clear that sectors should:

  1. Pull together a set of helpful policies,

  2. Work to improve and support teacher practice so that more promising practices can be delivered to young people,

  3. Address the unevenness of high-quality civic education available, especially to low-income and minority youth,

  4. Promote innovation, including a broader range of assessments that can measure not only civic knowledge but civic skills, and

  5. Establish stronger collaboration across sectors can work to focus in on common areas and concerns.

Guiding Questions for Week 4

  • How can you see these recommendations playing out in your own work? Do you see barriers that may arise? What might help further a recommendation?
  • Given what folks are doing in the field and what is recommended in report, how do we collaborate and work together across venues?
  • What role might you and your organization take?

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