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Abstract

The field of public engagement, participation and deliberation is fraught with conflicting results that are difficult to interpret due to the very different methods and measures used. Theory advancement and consistent operationalization and assessment of key public deliberation and engagement variables will benefit considerably from standardized measures of constructs and the ability to compare across studies. In this article, drawing from social and educational psychology, we describe the theoretical bases for scales assessing eight varieties of participant engagement that may be experienced during participation activities: Active learning, conscientious, uninterested, creative, open-minded, closed-minded, angry, and social engagement. We describe our development of scales to measure these varieties of engagement, and results from three confirmatory factor analyses across two very different populations (college students and city residents) and three different engagement activities (reading background information, deliberating about ethical scenarios, completing an online survey). Finally, we examine evidence of the convergent and divergent validity of the scales by examining their relationships with each other and theoretically-relevant individual and situational characteristics. Findings indicate the scales have good psychometric properties and show evidence of construct validity. We discuss how these scales might be used in reflective practice and research, and identify questions that public engagement researchers and practitioners will find useful in their work.

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