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Showing posts from January, 2018

Understanding Instructional Shifts

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by Christopher Busse, Civic Mentor for St. Clair County
Chris Busse is the Social Studies Department Chair at O’Fallon Township High School in O’Fallon, Illinois, where he has taught AP Political Science, AP Comparative Government, American Government, Civics, Psychology, Economics, United States History, and the American Legal System. Chris serves as the Regional Mentor for St. Clair County. He has been recognized with the Emerson Excellence in Teaching Award, the Constitutional Rights Foundation Barbara O’Donnell Teacher of the Year Award, and was chosen to participate in the Supreme Court Summer Institute.

As a curricular leader in his district, Chris has guided many educators through the instructional changes associated with the new Illinois Social Studies standards and civic education requirement. Here are his thoughts on how to help educators “make the shift.”

The new Illinois Social Studies Learning Standards and the Civic Learning Practice Indicators provide social studie…

Polarization and Classroom Practice, Part II: Mitigating Polarization's Deleterious Effects

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
Last week, I profiled the political typologies of educators to kick off a four part series on polarization and classroom practice. This week, I’ll revisit the power and prevalence of controversial issues discussions in classrooms, in part, as a means of mitigating polarization’s long-term, deleterious effects.

Our friends at the Center for Information Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University published a 2013 report on youth voting in the 2012 Election titled All Together Now. It highlights the challenge of teaching civics in an era where young people accurately view politics as both polarized and dysfunctional. With challenges come opportunities, and CIRCLE suggests “teaching a new generation to be civil, responsible, and constructive citizens may be part of the solution…” to the aforementioned problems.

Scholarship supports this claim. Diana Hess, Dean of the University of Wisconsin’s College of Educa…

Illinois Civics in the Spotlight - NCSS 2018

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Lead Teacher Mentor
This fall, the National Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference will be in Chicago, putting Illinois Civics in the spotlight! The conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago November 29th to December 2nd. The theme of the conference is “Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow: Building the Future of Social Studies.”


This is a time for Illinois teachers to shine and share best practice in standards and civics implementation. A call for conference proposals is open through February 26th. Proposals can take the form of full or half day pre-conference clinics, one-hour sessions, thirty-minute power sessions, poster sessions or two-hour workshops.

If you have never submitted a proposal for a conference, do not be intimidated by the process! There is a link provided on the NCSS website to coach you through the endeavor.

There will be special programming on Friday, November 30th designed for Illinois teachers. This series of workshop…

Polarization and Classroom Practice, Part I: The Political Typologies of American Educators

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
This post represents the first of a four part series on political polarization and classroom practice, ultimately attempting to answer the question of what we can do as educators to bridge this seemingly cavernous fracture in the heart of our democracy. Teaching with controversy is among the most impactful civic learning strategies, yet it is also fraught with danger and educators are wise to proceed with caution.

To kick off this series, I will begin with the political typology of teachers themselves, as the line where we separate the professional from the personal on the political front is complicated.

I’m often asked, “Aren’t teachers overwhelmingly liberal, and don’t they try to make students into little Democrats?” The answer is a definitive no, as teachers’ beliefs are typically reflective of the communities where they teach. Moreover, teachers have forever had a commitment to teaching students about democratic institutions …

Resources for Informed Action

by Mary Ellen Daneels, Lead Teacher Mentor
John Dewey stated, "The only way to prepare for social life is to engage in social life. To form habits of social usefulness and serviceableness apart from any direct social need and motive, apart from any existing social situation, is, to the letter, teaching the child to swim by going through motions outside of the water."—Moral Principles In Education
In the same sense, the only way to prepare and assess if students are equipped to engage in civic life, is to engage them in civic life. As stated in a previous blog post, both the new Illinois Social Studies standards and civics requirement embrace the authentic assessment of student knowledge, skills and dispositions through informed action or service learning.

Several organizations have resources related to the proven practice of service learning/informed action. This can be a starting point for educators in the important work of measuring student growth.
Through funding provi…

The Measure of Success

by Mary Ellen Daneels, Lead Teacher Mentor
In an article I wrote last year for Social Education, called, “Thermometers to Thermostats: Designing and Assessing Informed Action”, I made reference to the viral TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability” by best-selling author Brene’ Brown in which she struggled with the sentiment, “If you cannot measure it, it does not exist.” Many social studies teachers in Illinois are wrestling with the same premise as they work to assess the new inquiry standards. How do you measure informed action? Is it a test? Is it a portfolio? I have come to look at these questions in a different way. I do not see informed action as something additional to assess. I see informed action as the assessment of how students apply disciplinary content and proficiencies to address essential questions investigated in the classroom.

As noted in previous blog posts, the new Illinois Social Studies Standards are a paradigm shift for many educators in that they prescribe no…