Summer Institute Retrospective


As part of its design, from Day 1, Civic Spirit embedded an evaluator in the 3-year pilot program to ensure that we are objectively defining success, assessing outcomes, facing challenges, and capturing our best practices and distinct value within schools.

Civic Spirit’s Evaluator, Daniel Olson, attended the 2018 Summer Institute and wrote an evaluation including qualitative and quantitative data, gathered through pre and post-institute questionnaires and direct interviews.

Here is Daniel’s full evaluative report, the executive summary, and his accompanying note to readers.

Three months ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Civic Spirit/Jack Miller Center Summer Institute. I attended as Civic Spirit’s independent evaluator, tasked with helping the organization develop its long-term goals, learn about the gaps in civics education, and experiment with new strategies for civics pedagogy.

I learned so much during the week-long institute: from the talented faculty brought in to teach primary source texts on democracy, innovative pedagogy experts, and most of all from Civic Spirit’s partner educators working in its first cohort of schools. As the week progressed, my suspicions about the value of studying primary sources and centering emotion in pedagogy were confirmed. But the Institute also unearthed some new ideas for civics education: civic belonging, the power of the arts, using contemplative questions to help make connections between learners’ core values and the material of civics education, and the importance of relationship building to do this work well.

The following evaluation tells the story of the Summer Institute and describes some of the signature pedagogies that emerged. It is the first step of a comprehensive developmental evaluation of Civic Spirit. In that regard, the document raises more questions for the field of civics education than it answers. But I hope the questions themselves and the process of answering them can help both Civic Spirit and the larger field learn even more about this exciting work.

– Daniel Olson

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