Unique partnership between JMU, VCU recognized nationally
James Madison University is being recognized by the American Civic Collaboration Awards with an honorable mention for a year-long partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University for a new strategy in teaching civic engagement.
These two universities developed a new initiative, “Debate for Civic Learning,” to improve the student learning of civic engagement.
“Civic learning is important for higher education today because we can play a vital role in helping prepare students, faculty and staff to be engaged community members,” said Paul Mabrey, JMU School of Communication Studies and Learning Centers.
The initial pilot program included six JMU faculty members, who participated and integrated debate-based assignments into their courses. For JMU, the focus on civic learning was a natural fit with using debate-based assignments in the classroom because of the emphasis on developing reasoning, listening, critical problem solving, collaboration and communication skills around discipline-specific local or public problems.
Participating faculty members from JMU are Cathy Copeland, Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication; Laura Flores, Health Professions; Shin Ji Kang and Smita Mathur, Early Elementary and Reading Education; Karina Kline-Gabel, Foreign Language and Kathy Ott Walter, Health Sciences.
Mabrey explained the JMU-VCU group is collecting and analyzing assessment data from the pilot courses and expects to expand this partnership and reach in the future, particularly in disciplines where civic learning may not have traditionally been a priority.
In September, JMU, VCU and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia will also host The Debate for Civic Learning Institute in which a group of faculty and staff from institutions around the region will participate in panel discussions and workshops to learn how to better integrate debate-based activities within the classroom to improve civic learning.
The award winners will be announced at a ceremony in October during the National Conference on Citizenship that will be held in Washington, D.C.
This pilot program was funded with support from 4VA, The Madison Center, and the Office of the Provost.