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Assessing Civic Competency and Engagement in Higher Education: Research Background, Frameworks, and Directions for Next-Generation Assessment

Torney-Purta, Judith V; Cabrera, Julio; Roohr, Katrina Crotts; Liu, Ou Lydia; Rios, Joseph A.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
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Subject/Key Words:
Learning Outcomes Education, Higher Higher Education Civic Education Engagement Assessment


Civic learning is increasingly recognized as important by the higher education and workforce communities. The development of high-quality assessments that can be used to evaluate students' civic learning during the college years has become a priority. This paper presents a comprehensive review of existing frameworks, definitions, and assessments of civic-related constructs from approximately 30 projects relevant to higher education, and includes a discussion of the challenges related to assessment design and implementation. Synthesizing information from the review, we propose an assessment framework to guide the design of a next-generation assessment of individuals' civic learning that takes advantage of recent advances in assessment methods. The definition identifies 2 key domains within civic learning: civic competency and civic engagement. Civic competency encompasses 3 areas (civic knowledge; analytic skills; and participatory and involvement skills), and civic engagement also captures 3 areas (motivations, attitudes, and efficacy; democratic norms and values; and participation and activities). We discuss item formats and task types that would ensure fair and reliable scoring for the assessment. The review of definitions of civic learning and its components developed by organizations, the proposed assessment framework, and assessment considerations presented here have potential benefits for a range of higher education institutions. This includes institutions that currently have students engaged in relevant curricular or cocurricular activities and also institutions that would find assessments of civic competency and engagement helpful in program development or in evaluating students' accomplishments.

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