CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.
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Civics, digital badges and alternative assessment: Preparing students to be engaged citizens

With support from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, CIRCLE has released a working paper that explores digital badges and alternative assessments for civic skills, knowledge, and dispositions. This working paper, entitled “New and Alternative Assessments, Digital Badges, and Civics: An Overview of Emerging Themes and Promising Directions,considers digital badges as well as ePortfolios, rubrics, games, simulations, and other assessment and learning tools that might expand options for those committed to improving civic education. The working paper is also summarized in an an online presentation.

In a recent factsheet on state civic education requirements, CIRCLE concluded that while “all states have standards for social studies or civics” the number of states that require assessment on social studies has decreased since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, and the “scope of the assessments has become increasingly narrow.””

States are, to a greater extent, using multiple-choice-only tests that focus primarily on memorizing information, rather than demonstrating civic skills. Furthermore, assessments focus mostly on the history and geography of the United States; far fewer states assess students in world affairs or economics.  Ninety-six percent of states require the completion of at least one social studies course to graduate from high school. Yet only eighteen percent require an assessment of the knowledge and skills gained in these learning environments. At the very least, we are not recognizing in any comprehensive way what civic skills and competencies students are acquiring; at worst we are not providing them with the necessities to be engaged citizens of the 21st century.

Civic knowledge, like cognitive learning outcomes in math, science, and English, conforms moderately well to standardized testing and assessment mechanisms.  The harder assessment challenges involve civic skills, both participatory and intellectual, and civic dispositions (values, habits, and attitudes). These challenges are compounded by high-stakes, standardized tests that monopolize teachers’ time and leave little left for the more nuanced and complex assessments needed for civics. Additionally, civics need assessments that can accommodate a diverse set of learning environments (e.g. formal classrooms, after-school programs, community settings), and the long developmental trajectories for civic learning that can span beyond a single grade year or classroom. With all these obstacles to robust, multi-dimensional assessment, there is a clear need to consider alternative evaluation and credentialing processes and systems for civic learning.

The digital badge–as well as alternative assessments like ePortfolios, rubrics, games and simulations–may help overcome these difficulties. We are interested in what you have to say about these tools and practices.Join the conversation below.

6 Responses to “Civics, digital badges and alternative assessment: Preparing students to be engaged citizens”

  1. Civics, digital badges and alternative assessment: Preparing students to be engaged citizens | Felicia M. Sullivan Says:

    [...] have a new working paper on digital badge and civics released today as part of CIRCLE’s working paper series.  The paper explores digital badges [...]

  2. AEI Citizenship – Civic learning, digital badges, and alternative assessment Says:

    [...] Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) have just released a new working paper on civic education: “New and Alternative Assessments, Digital Badges, and Civics: An Overview of Emerging Themes a… Building on their previous research looking at the way states test (or don’t test) their [...]

  3. games, digital badges, and alternative assessments in civics « Peter Levine Says:

    [...] explore the pros and cons, CIRCLE’s Felicia Sullivan has written “New and Alternative Assessments, Digital Badges, and Civics: An Overview of Emerging Themes and Prom…” (published yesterday). She’s also produced a Prezi presentation to summarize the key [...]

  4. NEWS ABOUT PRODUCTS, EVENTS AND SERVICES | Education Talk Radio: Pre K-12 Says:

    [...] In addition to today’s report, CIRCLE recently released a working paper describing digital badges as a “promising approach” to assessing important aspects of civic competency other than knowledge.  An online Prezi of the working paper can be viewed at: http://prezi.com/rtqacupinb7p/untitled-prezi/.  Additional analysis can be viewed on CIRCLE’s website at:http://www.civicyouth.org/?p=5406. [...]

  5. MOOCs are old and shopworn « Peter Levine Says:

    [...] experience and it is not encouraging. To be sure, online courses have educational potential; a CIRCLE paper outlines some advantages. But we must avoid the hype. If college administrators were asked whether [...]

  6. CIRCLE Working Paper Examines Civics, Digital Badges and Alternative Assessments | Says:

    [...] more information, go here. Like this:Like [...]

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