Effective Teaching is Key to Civic Learning at Cal State LA

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Civic engagement currently center stage in California this spring, and not just because of the upcoming June 7 presidential primary.

This month, ACUE and the Center for Effective Teaching and Learning at California State University, Los Angeles launched a faculty development program that will use a custom Civic Learning module designed by ACUE. The program will help prepare faculty to effectively teach new Civic Learning course requirements in the fall. The courses are part of a broader initiative that Cal State LA is rolling out campus-wide in the coming years.

Inside Higher Ed profiled ACUE and Cal State LA’s this week for a national story about Civic Learning initiatives in higher education.

Starting this fall, California State University at Los Angeles students must take two courses in civic learning as part of their general education requirements.

A combination of workshops, service learning and problem-solving assignments, the courses are designed, the university said, to encourage students to use what they’ve learned at Cal State to create solutions to real-world issues by working with local nonprofit organizations. Faculty will develop assignments and projects using an online module created by the Association of College and University Educators.

When the requirement kicks in next year, the university will join a quickly growing number of institutions emphasizing civic engagement in their curricula.

“There is this whole discussion of a perceived decline in civic participation in our society,” Michael Willard, faulty director for the university’s Office of Service Learning, said. “What’s happening across higher education is a recognition that we need to fulfill our historic mission of preparing students to be citizens through new forms of engagement in civil society. That returns to the foundational purpose of higher education. Education has more value in addition to training students for a profession. A student should leave the university with the understanding that they can use the knowledge and skills of their degree for a career and for the public good. Those things are not mutually exclusive.”

Picture of faculty from California State University, Los Angeles

Cal State LA faculty during the ACUE’s Fall 2015 pilot.

Earlier this year at a panel on faculty development at the American Council on Education’s annual meeting, Cal State LA President William Covino discussed the role of faculty development and said the focus on instruction is galvanizing.

“Faculty are excited and engaged. That sense of engagement in teaching seems to make all the difference for us,” Covino said.

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