Glossary of Terms related to Higher Education Civic Engagement
compiled by Lori L. Britt, email@example.com
Often dialogue between those who research and practice civic engagement at the University level is segmented based on the terminology one uses‟s to describe one‟s efforts. However, many of these terms
are used interchangeably and labels should not prevent us from having rich conversations about how to further our aims. Toward that goal, I have compiled a glossary of some of the common terms as a way for us to begin to see connections across these semantic barriers. This is not an exhaustive list and I would love your suggestions for what to add or expand.
Action research: In its simplest form, action research is a way of generating research about a social system while simultaneously attempting to change that system. While conventional social science aims at producing knowledge about social systems (some of which may eventually prove useful to those wishing to effect change), action research seeks both to understand and to alter the problems generated by social systems. (www.servicelearning.org, Learn and Serve Clearinghouse)
Activist pedagogy: Aimed at challenging and correcting the injustices of society
A stance of engaging students in acting and reflecting on the structures and practices which result in injustice. Not treating the symptoms, but addressing the root cause. Challenges a stance of service-learning as “charitable” volunteering with little reflection on how the social problems and injustices
emerged and are propagated.
Civic education: “…is broadly concerned with the development of citizenship or civic competence by conveying the unique meaning, obligation, and virtue of citizenship in a particular society or the acquisition of values, dispositions, and skills appropriate to that society. Civic education includes both explicit and implicit aims, which may be conveyed through statements of educational goals, curriculum guidelines, textbook content, and teacher lessons …and through explicit and implicit teaching practices, such as engaging students in community service or encouraging group cooperation and discussion” (Husén & Postlethwaite, 1994, p. 767)
In the west, there are different conceptions of the goals: a) means of promoting patriotism and pride; b) means of instilling in students a range of values that will enable them to be informed and committed citizens in a democratic system, or c) means to examine conflicts over power including, „the nature of the
relationship between the individual and society, between individual power and collective power” (Pratte, 1988, p. 5 cited in Husén & Postlethwaite, 1994).
Civic engagement: In higher education, a term used to denote the university‟s active connection with the
surrounding local community, and the world beyond the boundaries of the institution. Civic engagement is “the will and capacity to solve public problems” (Ferraiolo, 2004) Such engagement “implies a greater role for colleges and universities in framing society‟s critical questions, in creating space for public deliberation that offers exposure to different points of view and enables people to form, express, and discuss their own opinions” (p. 4.)
Three ways a university manifests this “engagement” according to a report of the Pew Partnership for Civic Change (Ferraiolo, 2004):
1. Applying faculty and student intellectual capital to address community problems
2. Fostering the skills and attitudes that will enable undergraduates to lead lives of civic
3. Cultivating action-oriented strategies to improve local conditions
At the institutional level, universities often have a three-pronged approach of 1) University resources put to community problems, 2) Service learning, and 3) Community-based research
Civic engagement pedagogy: Implies that “service becomes a critical source of insight into social
problems and a commitment to reflecting on and addresses the roots of those challenges” (Ferraiolo, 2004, p. 7) So a focus on oneself in service leads to an ability to see social structures at work.
Community Engagement: A central value affirmed by the service-learning movement. Colleges,
universities, and community colleges cooperate with nonprofit agencies, government agencies, faith-based organizations, and individuals to improve the community in which the institution resides. Service-learning, faculty participation, and student volunteers represent community engagement. This ethic of service affirms the responsibility of educational institutions to bring their resources to impact gaps in community services. (www.servicelearning.org, Learn and Serve Clearinghouse)
Critical Pedagogy: Critical pedagogy is a) grounded on a social and educational vision of justice and equity, b) constructed on the belief that education is inherently political, and c) is dedicated to the alleviation of human suffering. (Kincheloe, 2004)
Kincheloe asserts that collaborative ventures and school cultures and reflective practice mean very little without a “rigorous” vision of the purpose of education. He posits a vision that reconceptualizes:
; what human beings are capable of achieving
; the role of the social, cultural and political in shaping human identity
; the relationship between community and schooling
; ways that power operates to create purposes for school that are not necessarily in the best interests of the children hat attend them.
; how teachers and students might relate to knowledge
; the ways schooling affects the lives of students from marginalized groups
; the organization of schooling and the relationship between teachers and learners
Students learn to read the word and the world (Freire)
Critical pedagogy strives to maintain a balance “between social change and cultivating the intellect” (Kincheloe, p. 21).
Experiential Education: Experiential learning is “the involvement of learners in concrete activities that enable them to experience what they are learning about and b) the opportunity to reflect on those activities” (Silverman, 2007, p. 8) Experiential learning can be used for learning that is cognitive, behavioral or affective. It notes that action learning is a subset of experiential learning involving “real people resolving and talking action on real problems in real time, and learning while doing it” (Silverman,
p. 6). This type of learning must engage emotions as well as intellect.
Emotionally engaged learning in which the learner experiences a visceral connection to the subject matter. Good experiential learning combines direct experience that is meaningful to the student with guided reflection and analysis. It is a challenging, active, student-centered process that impels students toward opportunities for taking initiative, responsibility, and decision making. (Learn and Serve Clearninghouse, www.servicelearning.org)
Feminist Pedagogy: “concerned primarily with effecting social change rather than just problem solving; moreover, it not only focuses on the extent to which desired outcomes are achieved, but it also examines the processes and practices that build meaningful relationships and stronger communities along the way” (Meyer, 2004, p. 197).
Trethaway (1999) contends that “the traditional service-learning paradigm is limited in that it assumes a
positivist epistemology. She contends that a feminist alternative. which combines an action orientation with an understanding of the social construction of identity, reflexivity, the affective components of human interaction, and collaboration, is infinitely more rewarding for students” (as cited in Meyer, 2004,
Scholarship of engagement: Community-based research that should advance knowledge and bring about community improvement. Work should be done with community partners, not for. Model of shared
Service Learning: Term first used in 1966 in Tennesee even though the history of the practice dates back much further, growing out of the roots of land-grant universities, the Chautauqua movement, and John Dewey. (Titlebaum, et. al., 2004)
“Service learning involves learning that blends personal experience and wisdom gained from community-
based service with knowledge arising out of more traditional coursework within academe” (Crews, 2002, p. viii).
A teaching method “that not only stands on the shoulders of John Dewey‟s thinking in experiential education, it also incorporates such important educational concerns as personal and social development, citizenship preparation, and career education” (Madden, 2000, p. 2).
“Service learning in higher education is an experiential learning pedagogy that balances the needs of student and community members involved, links the service and learning through reflective processes, and if skillfully managed leads to positive student personal, social or citizenship, career, and intellectual development” (Eyler, 2003, p. 2205).
Curriculum-based community service (Zlotkowski in Annotated History of Service Learning: Peter Titlebaum, Gabrielle Williamsson, Corinne Daprano, Janine Baer, and Jane Brahler, University of Dayton, OH, May 2004. Available at www.servicelearning.org/article/archive/36/)
Zlotkowski stresses reciprocity and shared expertise of both students/academy and community partner who has “lived with the problem” Multi-layered reflection (course content and contextual and social
significance of the discipline and civic responsibility.)
“… a credit bearing educational experience … students participate in an organized experience …meet identified community needs” … reflection as a way to “gain further understanding of course content,
broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility” (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996, p. 222).
The term service learning is contested. Other forms include:
“Service learning presents each act of learning as a resolution of the dialectic between the individual and society. Each successful resolution enhances both the perspective of the individual and the fabric of society by strengthening the link between the two” (Applegate and Morreale, 1999, p. x).
; Notably the term “Service Learning” does not have an entry in the International Encyclopedia of Education. All other search terms were found in either both the Encyclopedia of Education and the International Encyclopedia of Education, or neither.
Bringle, R. G., & Hatcher, J. A. (1996). Implementing service learning in higher education. Journal of
Higher Education, 67, 221-239.
Crews, R. J. (2002). Higher education service-learning sourcebook. Westport, CT: Oryx Press.
ndEyler, J. (2003). Service learning: Higher education. In J.W. Guthrie (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Education, 2
edition, pp. 2205-2210. New York: Thomson Gale.
Ferraiolo, K. (Ed.) (2004). New directions in civic engagement: University avenue meets main street.
Charlottesville, VA: Pew Partnership for Civic Change.
ndGuthrie, J. W. (Ed.) (2003). Encyclopedia of Education, 2 edition. NY: Thomson Gale.
ndHusén, T., & Postlethwaite, T. N. (Eds.) (1994). International encyclopedia of education, 2 edition. NY:
Kincheloe, J. L. (2004). Critical pedagogy. New York: Peter Lang.
Land, R., & Gilbert, R. (1994). Empowerment skills, acquisition of. In T. Husen & T. N. Postlethwaite, nd(Eds.) International encyclopedia of education, 2 edition, pp. 1980-1985. NY: Pergamon Press.
Madden, S. J. (2000). Service learning across the curriculum: Case applications in higher education.
New York: University Press of America.
Meyer, M. (2004). From transgression to transformation: Negotiating the opportunities and tensions of
engaged pedagogy in the feminist classroom. In P. M. Buzzanell, H. Sterk, & L. H. Turner (Eds),
Gender in applied communication contexts, pp. 195-213. Thousand Okas, CA: Sage.
Silverman, M. (2007). Handbook of experiential learning. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.
Titlelaum, P., et. al. (2004). Annotated history of service learning. Available online at