Civic Prompts: Civic Learning in the Major by Design

Educating students to be responsible, informed, and engaged citizens in their workplaces and the larger community should be an expected goal for every major.

Through a grant from the Endeavor Foundation, AAC&U has launched a project that highlights different departmental and disciplinary designs that incorporate learning for civic and social responsibility into the requirements and pedagogy of a student’s major or specialized program.

AAC&U’s report, A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future, recommends that higher education “define within departments, programs, and disciplines the public purposes of their respective fields, the civic inquiries most urgent to explore, and the best way to infuse civic learning outcomes progressively across the major.” AAC&U took up this challenge through a pilot initiative that resulted in the publication of Civic Prompts: Making Civic Learning Routine Across the Disciplines.

Civic Prompts constructs a process for faculty members to hold deep conversations with their departmental colleagues to explore a series of questions:

  • What lines of civic inquiry are amenable to their department/discipline/program?
  • What big issues are commonly explored that lend themselves to civic inquiries?
  • What pedagogies are suited to this area of specialization?
  • What kinds of assignments generate more intentional civic outcomes?
  • What forms of civic action are seen as appropriate to their disciplinary domain or could be incorporated more deliberately? 

Civic Prompts might not have been the catalyst for embedding civic and social responsibility within a given department, but AAC&U is eager to learn about the various motivations that have led different departments to make civic learning expected rather than optional. Through this project, AAC&U hopes to share case studies that illustrate the practice of applying a civic lens and the strategies that led to the integration of civic ethos, literacy, inquiry, and action in the majors and areas of specialized studies.

We invited departments to submit examples of innovative departmental designs that empower graduates for civic and social responsibility. The four substantive questions included in the survey were:  

  • Briefly describe ways civic learning and social responsibility are embedded in your department or program design for the course work in the major.
  • What was the process for adopting a department-wide civic lens for your majors?
  • What are some specific examples of how faculty have employed a civic lens in the classwork that aligns with their disciplines?
  • How did the larger institutional climate influence your department’s civic design for the major?

Nine institutions that represent different disciplinary and institutional sectors have been asked to write cases studies for a theme-focused issue of AAC&U’s quarterly publication, Peer Reviewand 13 institutions have been asked to write case studies an upcoming AAC&U website.

For more information, please contact Caryn McTighe Musil at musil@aacu.org.