Civic Learning Policy Adopted Statewide

MA Board of Higher Education Adopts Nation’s 1st Statewide Civic Learning Policy for Public Campuses

Community Colleges, State Universities, UMass Campuses to Deepen Focus on Preparing Students for Engaged Citizenship

May 8—The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (BHE) has adopted a first-in-the-nation policy on civic learning for public college and university students and will work with the Commonwealth’s community colleges, state universities and University of Massachusetts campuses to incorporate civic learning as an “expected outcome” for undergraduate students beginning in the 2014-15 academic year, the Department of Higher Education announced today.

“With this vote the BHE urges Massachusetts’ public campuses to reaffirm a shared commitment to the civic learning which is essential if students are to meet their future responsibilities as citizens,” said Richard M. Freeland, Commissioner of Higher Education. “This work is at the core of our mission in higher education. It is a commitment that I believe should be met with urgency.” ….

The new policy drew heavily on a report from a study group assigned to offer recommendations to guide campuses in the work of preparing future citizens. ….

This week’s unanimous Board action reaffirmed a March 2012 vote to add civic learning as a key outcome of the Vision Project, the state’s strategic agenda to achieve national leadership among state systems of public higher education. With that vote, Massachusetts became the first state to commit to finding a way to actually measure the civic learning of its students using methodologies similar to those used to track academic progress.

At its meeting at Massasoit Community College in Brockton, the BHE voted to define the scope of civic learning as follows:

The knowledge component of civic learning includes an understanding of the United States, including its history and governmental traditions, other world societies, and the relationship(s) between and among these cultures and nations.
• The intellectual skills component refers to qualities of mind necessary to engage effectively in civic activities.
• The applied competencies component refers to the practical skills and capacities needed to engage effectively in civic activities.
• The values component refers to understanding the social and political values that are associated with democratic and civic institutions.

The Board encouraged the state’s public campuses to develop their own programs and curricula to foster civic learning as defined by the new policy, while also announcing a four-point action plan to advance the system wide goals through:

1) Increased attention to civic learning as a goal in campus strategic plans;
2) Facilitation and support for campus work in civic learning through conferences and meetings to share best practices and provide funding for campus projects;
3) Development of new ways to measure and report students’ civic learning outcomes;
4) Collaboration with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop a cross-sector plan for civic learning from kindergarten through college.

The Board’s vote builds upon a long history of fostering civic engagement through service learning and other opportunities for students at the state’s public campuses.

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