Illinois Civics Hub Online Microcredentials Highlighted in Recent Report by CIRCLE at Tufts

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University has engaged in deep, yearslong partnerships with the Illinois Civics Hub at the DuPage Regional Office of Education and with the Lou Frey Institute at the University of Central Florida to investigate and evaluate models of professional development that build teacher’s knowledge, capacity, and willingness to adopt new civics pedagogies in the classroom.

Most recently CIRCLE evaluated Guardians of Democracy, an initiative to offer intensive online learning in K-12 civics instruction that would result in microcredentials certifying that teachers achieved mastery of various pedagogical approaches. CIRCLE recently shared the final report of that evaluation, which has implications for the broader question of how best to prepare teachers to educate students for democracy. This work was generously supported by the McCormick Foundation.

Major findings included in the CIRCLE report were:

  • Guardian courses helped teachers gain both knowledge about pedagogy and self-awareness about how they teach and why. On average, teachers in the beginner courses gained an average of 10 percentage points in their civics pedagogy knowledge between the pre-test and post-test for the course.
  • The virtual courses evolved into more than “training,” it became a safe and supportive professional learning community that allowed teachers to share and learn from one another. Facilitators also pushed teachers to make active contributions to each other’s learning. The social bonds and peer-teaching that resulted from this environment allowed teachers to be authentic and often vulnerable about challenges and even perceived failures, which was essential to their development.
  • The courses helped teachers become more willing to use these pedagogical approaches in their classroom and more confident in their ability to do so effectively. 
  • By emphasizing teacher accountability and an active learning pedagogy, Guardian courses broke the mold of typical professional development and allowed teachers to form a simulated or context-specific idea of how that practice will unfold in reality.
  • The carefully designed courses, with concrete guidance and examples on how they can use each pedagogy, helped teachers experience a paradigm shift in their thinking about what the pedagogies can do for student learning.

To learn more about the CIRCLE research on the Guardians of Democracy Microcredential program, you can read the executive summary and full report here.

You can experience the Guardians courses for yourself this fall. Earn your civic microcredentials.  Become a Guardian of Democracy educator.

Registration is now open for the Guardians of Democracy fall cohorts. Hone your practice in facilitating:

  • Current and controversial issues discussions
  • Simulations of Democratic Processes
  • Informed Action through Service Learning.

Registration information is available on the Illinois Civics Hub Professional Development calendar. Those who successfully complete the 5-week online course will earn a Bronze Certified Guardian of Democracy Educator badge via Badgr and the University of Central Florida Center for Distributive Learning. Participants can earn 15 PD hours through the DuPage Regional Office of Education for FREE.

Each course is the first in a three-course series. Graduate credit is available through the University of St. Francis for completing all three courses.  For more information, please visit the Guardians of Democracy homepage.

If you have already earned your Bronze Certified Educator Badge, Silver and Gold cohorts will run this fall and winter. Visit the Illinois Civics Hub Professional Development calendar for more information.