Civic Learning Lexicon

April 1, 2022

Civic learning looks beyond the classroom to all the places youth learn civics. In addition to civics education happening at school, civic learning includes the learning that happens after school, during extracurriculars, in the community, through religious institutions, at home, and online.

Here are some concepts and terminology related to civic learning.


Core Concepts and Terminology

Effective citizen

An individual who is well-informed, productively engaged in working for the common good, and hopeful about the future of democracy.

a graphic of a man with an icon of a newspaper pointing to his head that says
An effective citizen is an individual who is well-informed, productively engaged in working for the common good, and hopeful about the future of democracy.

Civic learning

A process through which a young person develops into an effective citizen in our democratic society, which includes gaining civic knowledge, practicing civic skills, and building civic dispositions.

Civic knowledge

An understanding of government structures, political processes, and the relevant social studies concepts that make up a democratic society.

Civic skills

Participating as an effective citizen through use of one’s voice, critical thinking, civil discourse, media literacy, voting, and engaging in the community.

Civic dispositions

Attitudes and behaviors important in a democracy, such as a sense of civic duty, concern for the welfare of others, and commitment to trustworthiness and bridgebuilding.

a young woman standing at a voting booth
Effective citizens practice all their civic knowledge, civic skills, and civic dispositions.

Related Concepts and Terminology

Civic capacities

Access to networks, opportunities to participate, and other forms of social capital that promote civic agency. Civic health: the civic, social, and political strength of a community.

Civic strength

Thelevel of individual engagement and the community’s capacity to work together to resolve collective problems, such as through volunteerism and service, group participation, charitable giving, and collective action.

Civic virtue

The character or personal qualities of an effective participant in a civil society.

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