Washington ‘Knight-ed’ for quest to revive civic learning, citizenship involvement

Professor Elizabeth Washington

As part of a $3 million campaign to strengthen civic learning and involvement, UF education  professor Elizabeth Washington was recently named a Knight Effective Citizens Fellow by the university’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service to help develop and test a novel online civics course for UF undergraduates.

Washington will join a work group of newly appointed Knight fellows in the project in an effort to strengthen students’ civic knowledge and involvement in democratic citizenship activities. After evaluation at UF, the online course will be made available to universities across the nation.

The course development is one of five civic-learning projects funded by a $3-million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The grant also supports four other initiatives promoting civic involvement including the use of social media, ways to engage public discussion and evaluation of current civic learning and engagement programs.

With severe school budget cutbacks and the emphasis on standardized tests mainly in reading, science and math, Washington said the amount of time and effort devoted to teaching subjects such as civics, American history and government is seriously declining in public schools.

Washington is a national expert and advocate for civics education and citizen involvement. She is a professor in the School of Teaching and Learning at the College of Education and a Senior Fellow with the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship and the Bob Graham Center, where she works to improve civics education standards in Florida.

As a Knight fellow, she will work with one of her former students, Emma Humphries, who was hired by the Graham Center upon completion of her doctoral degree earlier this year to fill the grant-funded position of assistant scholar in citizenship. Humphries will coordinate the fellows’ work group and its course development activities.

The Bob Graham Center was created in 2008 by former Sen. Graham to give UF students an opportunity to experience political leadership and involvement outside of the classroom and a firm grounding in democratic government. The Knight fellows are working on the course curriculum with plans to offer the course to UF students in next spring.