Individual and Social Implication in Civic Engagement. A Multicase Study on School-Community Partnership

23-25 Agosto 2022 - Yerevan (Armenia) ECER 2022
Francesca Rapanà, Marcella Milana, Marialuisa Damini, Università di Verona

This contribution focuses attention on school-community collaborations that promote Civic Engagement (CE), and explores how teachers, community educators conceptualize and practice CE at individual, interpersonal and/or social levels through these collaborations.

Previous research has shown, schools play an important role in promoting CE (Youniss, 2011; Zaff, Youniss, and Gibson, 2009; Gimpel, Lay, & Schuknecht, 2003; Kahne & Middaugh, 2009).

But civic knowledge, although important, is not enough to enable students to fully act as citizens, thus CE requires building a relationship with the community (at both local and global levels), through which students can gain firsthand experience as citizens. Moreover, schools are embedded in a geographically defined territory (neighborhood or city) but also interact with the territory in a broader sense (national, European or global context). For this reason, it is important for schools to build and maintain an open dialog and fruitful collaboration with communities at different levels that can enhance global learning and help teachers and educators maximizing the impact of content for the benefit of students (Hambidge, Minocha & Hristov, 2019).

Although CE has many different definitions and embraces a wide range of interventions in education, it commonly refers to practices and attitudes that sustain the quality of democracy in a society, based on the citizens’ participation in political and social life (Banyan, 2013; Milana, 2020). Accordingly, in our perspective there are three core aspects that characterizes CE. First, CE involves looking outwards, beyond the sphere of one’s own needs or those of one’s loved ones (Amnå 2012). Second, CE can be expressed through action exercised in a space of deliberation and autonomy by citizens capable of making informed choices (Amnå 2012). Third, CE has to do with promoting social change (Adler, Goggin, 2005) in the direction of greater equity that allows individuals to cultivate their potential and communities to empower themselves (Amnå, 2012). Along this line of reasoning, the relation people hold with the community, whether understood as a place of territorial or residential proximity, a cultural or social space of belonging, or the broader supranational or global sphere, represents the relational context in which CE takes shape.

Against this backdrop, schools play a central role in promoting CE as well as in contrasting civic disengagement, that is the disaffection on the part of individuals to the community in which they live. But, schools can also “widen” this role with a glance to issues that can involve global problems. In this sense, CE seems to be part of a tension between local and global learning and action.

Based on Amnå (2012), we identify three levels of CE learning (individual, interpersonal, social) that call for a move from the individual towards to social for a full development of CE. In other words, from an educational viewpoint, the local and global dimensions trace a path from developing individual knowledge to being directly engaged with significant others, and then to assuming civic responsibilities in the broader society. In this way, the “global” dimension of CE necessitates the preliminary more “local” one, which implies individual and interpersonal learning. Therefore, the terms “local” and “global” no longer appear to be opposites, but both contribute to make the definition of CE (and the necessary learning) broader and more complex.


Epistemologically our research follows a constructionist framework (Crotty, 1998), that combines the interest for the subjective construction of meaning with a realist ontological position. This perspective reminds of the high value of every voice in doing research on human phenomena in specific contexts.

Methodologically, we adopted a multi-case design, aimed at developing individual cases to explore a single social phenomenon (Stake, 2006), which included seven case studies in as many schools, i.e. two primary and middle schools, two high schools, two vocational training centers and state school for adults. All the schools are in the same city in Northern Italy. In total, over the period July 2020-June 2021, 32 semi-structured interviews have been collected with principals and teachers and 27 with community educators with whom schools carry out collaborative learning activities aimed at civic engagement enhancement. In addition, 14 group interviews were conducted with students. Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, collaborative learning activities were interrupted, so it was not possible to carry out observations of these activities as originally planned.

All interviews have been transcribed and coded using N-Vivo by at least two researchers (Charmaz, 2014; Saldaña, 2013). The case studies have been analyzed both individually (within case analysis) and following a comparative perspective (cross-case analysis).

The fieldwork had been preceded by a systematic review (Rapanà, Milana, Marzoli, 2021) that outlined different pedagogical approaches and practices implemented to foster students’ civic engagement through school-community collaborations


Expected outcomes

Through the data collected, we explored the different ways in which participants interpret the meaning of CE and the relationship with the learning activities implemented through school-community collaboration. A model emerged in which different elements are related, namely the idea of citizen that is to be promoted in teachers’ representations, the type of educational action that supports it, the self-perception of the roles of the school and of the community, the needs of the students and the prerequisites necessary for the exercise of CE.

What emerges is a continuity and progression between the local level of CE learning (Boggs, 1991), more related to individual prerequisites, and the global level, more related to civic action in a social context, which does not place them in opposition, but facilitates authentic participation, which is not merely adaptation to a model proposed by others.



Adler, R. P., & Goggin, J. (2005). What Do We Mean By “Civic Engagement”? Journal of Transformative Education, 3(3), pp. 236–253.

Amnå E. (2012). How is civic engagement developed over time? Emerging answers from a multidisciplinary field. Journal of Adolescence, 35(3), pp. 611-27

Banyan, M. E. (2013). Civic engagement. In Encyclopædia Britannica.

Boggs, D. L. (1991). Adult Civic Education. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas.

Charmaz, K. (2014). Constructing Grounded Theory. Los Angeles: Sage.

Crotty M. (1998). The foundations of social research: meaning and perspective in the research process. London: Sage.

Hambidge S, Minocha S, Hristov D. Connecting Local to Global: A Case Study of Public Engagement. Education Sciences. 2019; 9(1):31.

James G., Gimpel J.G., Lay J.C., Schuknecht J.L. (2003). Cultivating Democracy Civic Environments and Political Socialization in America. Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press.

Kahne, Joseph & Middaugh, Ellen. (2009). Democracy for some: The civic opportunity gap in high school. Circle Working Paper 59. Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).

Milana, M. (2020). Impegno civico-sociale. In M. Milana & P. Perillo (Eds.) RE-SERVES project: Glossary.

Saldaña, J. (2013). The Coding Manual for Qualitative Research. London: Sage

Stake, R.E. (2006). Multiple Case Study Analysis. NY-London: The Guilford Press.

Valli, L., Stefanski, A., & Jacobson, R. (2016). Typologizing School–Community Partnerships: A Framework for Analysis and Action. Urban Education, 51(7), pp. 719-747.

Youniss, J. (2011) Civic Education: What Schools Can Do to Encourage Civic Identity and Action, Applied Developmental Science, 15:2, 98-103.

Zaff, J., Youniss, J., & Gibson, C. (2009). An Inequitable Invitation to Citizenship: Non-College-Bound Youth and Civic Engagement. Washington DC: Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement


La promozione di impegno civico e sociale nella collaborazione tra scuola e territorio

16 giugno 2022 - FOGGIA, Convegno Nazionale SIPED, Junior Conference
Francesca Rapanà, Università di Verona

Il contributo ha approfondito il ruolo delle collaborazioni tra scuola e territorio finalizzate alla promozione di impegno civico e sociale (ICS), soffermandosi in particolare sulla voce degli/lle studenti/esse. Attraverso uno studio multicaso (Stake, 2006), realizzato nell’ambito del progetto PRIN RE-SERVES “La ricerca al servizio delle fragilità educative”, sono stati coinvolti docenti, dirigenti, studenti/esse e referenti degli enti del territorio sia per comprendere come essi/e concettualizzano l’ICS sia per individuare i modelli teorici alla base delle pratiche educative proposte.

Nonostante sia un concetto che sfugge ad una definizione univoca, ci sono alcuni elementi che caratterizzano l’ICS. In primo luogo, tale concetto implica uno sguardo rivolto verso l’esterno, oltre la sfera dei propri bisogni o quelli dei propri cari arrivando a comprendere l’intero spazio sociale, locale o globale (Amnå, 2012). In secondo luogo, l’ICS si esprime attraverso un’azione esercitata in uno spazio di deliberazione e autonomia da parte di cittadini capaci di fare scelte consapevoli (Ibid.). Ciò presuppone che il soggetto non si limiti a rivolgere la propria attenzione o a provare empatia per una determinata situazione, ma richieda un’attivazione del soggetto teso a produrre un’azione riconoscibile. Infine, questa azione deliberata deve essere finalizzata a produrre un cambiamento nella direzione di una maggiore equità sociale (Amnå, 2012; Adler & Goggin, 2005).

Dall’analisi delle interviste e documenti emerge un modello di sviluppo a “stadi” dell’impegno civico e sociale che da una prima fase di sviluppo delle competenze individuali ritenute propedeutiche all’agire l’ICS, procede verso la costruzione di relazioni interpersonali e poi verso la partecipazione sociale. Alla convinzione diffusa nel personale scolastico che la fragilità dei/lle propri/e studenti/esse imponga di lavorare in particolare sulla prima fase, per fornire quelle competenze di cui sarebbero privi/e, questi/e rispondono con la richiesta di un maggiore coinvolgimento nella programmazione di progettualità autenticamente rivolte allo sviluppo di ICS.

  • Stake, R.E. (2006). Multiple case study analysis. The Guilford Press, New York.
  • Adler, R. P., & Goggin, J. (2005). “What Do We Mean By “Civic Engagement”?” Journal of Transformative Education, 3(3), pp. 236-253.
  • Amnå E. (2012). “How is civic engagement developed over time? Emerging answers from a multidisciplinary field”. Journal of Adolescence, 35(3), pp. 611-27.

Civic engagement learning through school-community partnerships

24 maggio 2022 - South Korean University, Asian Civil Society Workshop
Marcella Milana, Università di Verona

Do Neets Need a MOOC? Pedagogical reflections from a national research project in italy

13 maggio 2022 - 1st International Congress: Education and Knowledge (ICON), Universidad de Alicante
Lisa Stillo, Università di Roma 3

This paper aims to deepen the pedagogical perspectives at the basis on the creation of a MOOC (massive open online course), realized in order to promote the social and economical inclusion of young  NEET (not in education, employement, or training). Today, the NEETs population is increasingly rising, and the Covid-19 crisis has further worsened this condition (Ilo, 2020). After the pandemic,  NEETs rate increased by 1.2% across Europe, and Italy has the highest number of NEETS (29,4%) in the UE; the majority of whom are women (35%) (Eurostat, 2021) and with higher percentages in southern Italy. These young people live in a very different conditions and it is difficult to hypothesize the right answers for needs which emerge. Starting from a critical reflection about the NEET concept, this contribution want to present a heterogeneus MOOC structure, which is a pilot project to promote a training course useful for the development of transversal skills for social and occupational reintegration of NEETs. But why did we choose a MOOC? – It is a free and open course, and it is possibile to study materials and tools for contacting experts and other students; these types of courses often do not require a predefined level of participation and other types of prerequisites, apart from knowledge of the language in which the course takes place. – It is based on student self-organization according to learning objectives, prior knowledge and skills, and common interests. – It is flexible and fosters the customization in the use of the course related to time and space of participation; – It entails the indirect implementation of participants’ e-skills. The MOOC created, which is called MEET, lasts 5 weeks, but it is a flexible time, depending on the individual participant. There are seven tutors, because from literature it emerges that the mentoring and emotional, psychological and relational support seem to be winning and indispensable. Each course consists of 2 video, lessons, handouts, multimedia and open access materials, self-assessment tests, educational forums, discussion forums. An interesting aspect of these MOOC is the participation of teachers who come from a variety of backgrounds: academic teachers, voluntary organizations, and people professionals in the labor market. This activity is a part of a PRIN (Project of Relevant National Interest) named “RE-SERVES, which aims to better understand the intersection of vulnerability, marginality and education through the analysis and problematization of current educational practices in a variety of contexts both in and outside school.

Being or becoming a citizen: the role of students’ voice in fostering civic engagement at school

22-24 Aprile 222 - Sestri Levante, ATEE “Winter Conference Teaching and Learning for an interconnected World”
Marialuisa Damini, Francesca Rapanà, Università di Verona

Nell’ambito della Winter Conference Teaching and Learning for an interconnected World” organizzata dall’Association for Teacher Education in Europe (ATEE) ed ospitata a Sestri Levante dal 22 al 24 aprile 2022 sono stati presentati alcuni esiti dell’azione di ricerca focalizzata sull’impegno civico e sociale (WP1) condotta dall’Università di Verona. In particolare, la presentazione ha riguardato le rappresentazioni dell’impegno civico e sociale da parte di studenti e studentesse e il ruolo attribuito alla scuola nella promozione dello stesso.

Collaborare per agire: l’interazione scuola-territorio per promuovere l’impegno civico e sociale di studenti e studentesse

21 febbraio 2022 - SIPED Responsabilità sociale e impegno civile: forme e significati attraverso il corso della vita
Marcella Milana, Università di Verona

Il 21 febbraio 2022 si è tenuto il convegno “Responsabilità sociale e impegno civile: forme e significati attraverso il corso della vita” promosso dal gruppo SIPED “Pedagogia del corso della vita. L’educazione permanente dall’infanzia alla vecchiaia” in cui Marcella Milana ha presentato l’azione di ricerca realizzata dall’Università di Verona nell’ambito del progetto RE-SERVES (WP1) focalizzata sulle collaborazioni tra scuola e territorio per la promozione dell’impegno civico e sociale.