This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Effect of Everyday Informal Learning Activities on Lifelong Learning Mindset and Civic Engagement in U.S. Adults: Towards a Learning Cities Theory of Change




Haren Conely, Linnea

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


The concept of a learning city has existed since the Faure et al. (1972) report proclaimed that lifelong learning was the path to a global learning society where all humans could achieve their best selves and by extension all countries their highest purpose. The rationale for learning cities is built on a belief that “lifelong learning lays the foundation for sustainable social, economic and environmental development” (UNESCO, n.d.). However, empirical research on the impact of using the learning cities framework to achieve those ends is limited, as is the theory to support causality between lifelong learning and social outcomes (Boshier, 2018; Rüber et al., 2018). This study defines the learning city framework as an approach that infuses lifelong and lifewide learning into a city’s policies, systems, and operations, as well as into its natural, built, social, and cultural environment for the purpose of developing the full potential of its citizens and by extension the entire community. To gain insight into how lifelong learning might be leveraged in all cities to promote civic engagement, data from U.S. adults in the 2017 PIAAC survey were used to test a two-step fully latent structural regression model to measure the effect of everyday informal learning activities on common characteristics of civic engagement (volunteerism, political self-efficacy, and social trust) through the presence of lifelong learning mindset (LLM). The results showed a positive relationship between informal learning and civic engagement that was strengthened through LLM; however, the data also revealed that participants had high frequencies of informal learning and LLM yet had low levels of civic engagement. This finding could be of concern to learning city organizers because it suggests that citizens can be engaging in high rates of lifelong learning and possess a lifelong learning mindset, yet still have very low opinions of their government. Results also indicated a need for additional research to account for gender, cross-cultural, and skill level differences.