CERL Holds Workshop at the Western Political Science Association Annual Conference

Dr. Diana Owen, CCT student research assistants Katie Hartzell and Jenny Lee, and Maria Gallo of the Center for Civic Education led a workshop on “Educating High-Need Students for Citizenship” at the Western Political Science Association Annual Conference in San Diego, California. The workshop discussed how the James Madison Legacy Project’s (JMLP) professional development program empowers teachers to incorporate active learning pedagogies into civics and social studies classrooms and showcased research on the program. The JMLP is a program of the Center for Civic Education that provides professional development to teachers of high-need elementary, middle, and high school students nationwide based on the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution program. The professional development program is designed to improve teachers’ civics content knowledge and cultivate their pedagogic skills in order to enhance students’ achievement in attaining state standards in civics and government. The Georgetown University research team studies the effectiveness of the professional development program in preparing teachers to implement the We the People curriculum as well as students’ acquisition of civic knowledge, dispositions, and skills as a result of taking a JMLP civics class.

Maria Gallo demonstrated instructional pedagogies that are effective in providing civic education and how they can be used successfully in classrooms with high-need students. Lacking access to high-quality professional development, teachers of high-need students tend to rely heavily on lecture as a pedagogy. Dr. Owen, Jenny Lee, and Katie Hartzell presented findings demonstrating the effectiveness of the JMLP in preparing teachers of high-need students to incorporate active learning approaches into their classroom, including the simulated congressional hearings that are the signature pedagogy of the We the People curriculum. In addition, the findings consistently show that JMLP teachers gained substantial content knowledge as a result of the program. Further, the civic literacy of students in JMLP classes increased significantly. Teachers’ content knowledge was highly correlated with students’ civic knowledge. The more teachers knew about founding principles, the U.S. Constitution, government institutions, and political practices, the greater their success in conveying civics material to their students.