Select Page


As part of AAC&U’s five-year initiative, Greater Expectations: Goals for Learning as a Nation Goes to College, Caryn Musil worked with team that developed the Civic Learning Spiral, a new model of civic learning that is intended to be applied from elementary school through college. The spiral, whose origins are in the learner, has six elements, or braids, within each full turn: self, communities and cultures, knowledge, values, skills, and public action. The civic learning outcomes for the six braids of the spiral for the purposes of integration into a wide range of courses and co-curricular experiences are:

Outcomes for civic learning about the self

  • Understanding that the self is always embedded in relationships, a social location, and a specific historic moment.
  • Awareness of ways one’s identity is connected to inherited and self-chosen communities.
  • Ability to express one’s voice to affect change.
  • Disposition to become active in what a person cares about.
  • Capacity to stand up for oneself and one’s passionate commitments

Outcomes for civic learning about communities and cultures

  • Appreciation of the rich resources and accumulated wisdom of diverse communities and cultures
  • Understanding how communities can also exclude, judge, and restrict
  • Curiosity to learn about the diversity of groups locally and globally
  • Willingness to move from the comfort zone to the contact zone by transgressing boundaries that divide
  • Capacity to describe comparative civic traditions expressed within and by different cultural groups

Outcomes for civic learning about knowledge

  • Recognition that knowledge is dynamic, changing, and consistently re- evaluated
  • Understanding that knowledge is socially constructed and implicated with power
  • Familiarity with key historical struggles, campaigns, and social movements to achieve the full promise of democracy
  • Deep knowledge about the fundamental principles of and central arguments about democracy over time as expressed in the United States and in other countries
  • Ability to describe the main civic intellectual debates within one’s major

Outcomes for civic learning about skills

  • Adeptness at critical thinking, conflict resolution, and cooperative methods
  • Ability to listen eloquently and speak confidently
  • Skills in deliberation, dialogue, and community building
  • Development of a civic imagination
  • Capacity to work well across multiple differences

Outcomes for civic learning about values

  • Serious exploration of and reflection about core animating personal values
  • Examination of personal values in the context of promoting the public good
  • Espousal of democratic aspirations of equality, opportunity, liberty, and justice
  • Development of affective qualities of character, integrity, empathy, and hope
  • Ability to negotiate traffic at the intersection where worlds collide

Outcomes for civic learning about public action

  • Understanding of, commitment to, and ability to live in communal contexts
  • Disposition to create and participate in democratic governance structures of school, college, and the community
  • Disciplined civic practices that lead to constructive participation in the communities in which one lives and works
  • Formulation of multiple strategies for action (service, advocacy, policy-change) to accomplish public ends/purposes
  • Planning, carrying out, and reflecting upon public action
  • Development of the moral and political courage to take risks to achieve the public good
  • Determination to raise ethical issues and questions in and about public life.

[Musil, Caryn McTighe. 2009. Civic Engagement in Higher Education. Jossey-Bass. p. 61-63]



Pollock House
765 Algoma Boulevard
Oshkosh, WI 54901

(920) 424-1257