Fostering and Measuring Civic Agency in an American Government Course

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Scholars and commentators are increasingly concerned about the erosion of democratic norms in the United States. Political science education stands at the forefront of higher education’s mission to create an educated citizenry, and civic education is linked to outcomes like civic engagement and trust in government. Much of the research on civic education, however, examines how different classroom interventions affect students’ intentions of engaging civically in the future. This study argues that between intention and action lies agency. Specifically, it examines how an introductory course in American government influences the development of civic agency. A new scenario-based method of measuring civic agency is also introduced. The study finds that civic agency does in fact develop, with students sharpening their calculus of engagement by the end of the course. In other words, students better understand where they can best engage and how as a result of taking this course. Increasing agency at this early juncture of the university curriculum, we argue, lays the foundation for future engagement when students care about an issue enough to weigh in.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)476-491
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Political Science Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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