Portrait of a Learner 4-8

Systems Change

Civic Mindedness

Factor Connections

Hover to see how factors connect to Civic Mindedness. Then click connected factors to explore strategies related to multiple factors.

A learner's Civic Mindedness involves seeing oneself as a contributor to their community, being informed and empowered to help or include others, and eventually joining with others to achieve common goals for the community. This means being attuned to, respecting, and beginning to identify the needs and goals (e.g. social or environmental issues) of the people in one's community and recognizing that they may be different from their own. It not only entails thinking critically about civic content knowledge, including social movements, but thinking critically about the democratic system which governs their communities, and considering the injustices and disparities it may create for themselves and others, and how to think about and contribute to solutions.

Main Ideas

Environments that allow time for open-ended play and activity with peers provide informal opportunities for civic actions by learning to form communal goals, care for each other, and resolve disputes. As students progress through school they also will begin to try out their civic participation in both formal and informal learning contexts. An open classroom climate can empower learners in shared decision making about their class. Although in Western culture younger learners are not often considered as being capable citizens now, but rather adults tend to think about preparing them for their future as citizens- this perspective limits pedagogical approaches and negates the many capabilities that learners bring with them. When we approach learning by seeing students as capable citizens, and building upon their curiosities and backgrounds, they become empowered learners and community members and can continue to engage and grow their Civic Mindedness.

A learner's Civic Identity is grounded in having a sense of self as part of a larger whole. A learners' exploration of their Identities and values is key to guiding their actions in their communities and developing Civic Mindedness. That is, learners must have both a sense of personal agency and self-efficacy, the ability and initiative to act, and Social Awareness of the other individuals in the community. With this they can begin to recognize the needs and opportunities of others in their community, a sense of responsibility, and the initiative to collaboratively effect change. This action includes acting on behalf of others in one's community as well as acting with others. When students are given the freedom to care for each other and their community, they also learn to live as a member of a community, fostering a Sense of Belonging. The development of Civic Mindedness in the classroom relies on establishing a sense of community and trust with teachers and classmates, and active participation in the classroom. Therefore it is important to consider the impact of "pull-out" vs. "push-in” services for students who need extra learning support-- including multilingual language learners and those with learning disabilities or ADHD as it may affect their ability to actively engage with their classroom community the same way as their peers.

Students' communities provide a natural context for learning that matters to learners, and so connecting the community to the classroom provides students a real world context to think Critically and Creatively to solve problems that affect them. As such, integrating community into learning experiences promotes active, inclusive engagement in the classroom, neighborhood, and the broader world.

Social Responsibility, or a sense of obligation to contribute to the greater good is a value that affects our beliefs and how we interact with others, and is a motivator of many civic actions: It is related to empathy, prosocial behaviors, and general care for others with an emphasis on positive social change. During childhood and adolescence, the developmental roots of individuals' social responsibility lies in the growth of cognitive skills, Emotion regulation, empathy, and Identity. In order to foster young learners' social responsibility in their everyday lives, educators can model prosocial behaviors, communicate care and concerns for others, and provide opportunities to practice civic skills.

Learn More

  • Fostering Civic-Mindedness: A resource that explores ways in which young children are inherently civic-minded, and how caregivers can continue encouraging Civic-Mindedness.

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