What the Research Says

Our Materials Are Evidence Based

This page describes the research and conceptual frameworks that guided the development of lesson plans and units.

Civic Engagment Text
(Hope & Jagers, 2014)


Socio-Political Development and Civic Engagement (Watts, Williams & Jagers, 2003; Jagers,  Rivas-Drake & Williams, 2019) Our civic education resources, with an emphasis on civic discourse, focus on developing students' critical consciousness. According to socio-political development theories, when a person begins to critically reflect on the injustices around them, they are developing critical consciousness. This process ideally leads to critical civic engagement and action, also known as justice-orientated citizenship. We believe justice-oriented civic engagement is important, as we know not all forms of civic engagement are liberating. Considering critical consciousness is a key precursor to justice-oriented civic engagement, developing these skills is a main focus of our work.



“If it is in speaking their word that people,
by naming the world, transform it,
dialogue imposes itself as the way by which
they achieve significance as human beings.”
Paulo Freire

Social-Cognitive Domain Theory (Nucci, 2009). Social-cognitive domain theory examines children and adolescents' development of social knowledge within three areas: moral, social-convention, and personal. While each domain is important, our work focuses on the integration and application of the social-conventional and moral domain as they are often the regulating behaviors of individuals' choices and behaviors (Nucci, 2016). A child or adolescent's moral (ideas regarding fairness and equality) and social-conventional (agreed-upon social norms) understandings and reasoning become more nuanced and advanced through conversations with peers. These conversations, also known as transactive discussions, often focus on dilemmas, and they challenge students to build the best solution. These cognitive structures are developed through developmentally appropriate generative discussions around historical and literary dilemmas.

Clip Art of Dialogue
"History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history."
James Baldwin
Critical history

Critical History (Kincheloe & Pinar, 1991; Villaverde, Helyar, & Kincheloe, 2006; Alridge 2015; Blevin, Magill, & Salinas, 2020). The resources are also framed by critical history and historiography. Critical histories highlight the perspectives of historically marginalized groups and employ methods in oral history and social history when trying to understand their stories (W.E.B. Du Bois, Richard Hofstadter and Howard Zinn are considered practitioners of this approach). According to historian Derrick Alridge, critical history “dig[s] beneath the surface of events and phenomena using critical theoretical interpretative frames to interrogate and challenge traditional canons.”

Alridge, D. P. (2015). On the education of Black folk: WEB Du Bois and the paradox of
segregation. Journal of African American History, 100(3), 473-493.
Blevins, B., Magill, K., & Salinas, C. (2020). Critical historical inquiry: the intersection of ideological clarity and pedagogical content knowledge. The Journal of Social Studies Research, 44(1), 35-50.

Hope, E. C., & Jagers, R. J. (2014). The role of sociopolitical attitudes and civic education in the civic engagement of black youth. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 24(3), 460-470.

Kincheloe, J. L., & Pinar, W. (Eds.). (1991). Curriculum as social psychoanalysis: The significance of place. SUNY Press.
Jagers, R. J., Rivas-Drake, D., & Williams, B. (2019). Transformative social and emotional learning (SEL): Toward SEL in service of educational equity and excellence. Educational Psychologist, 54(3), 162-184.
Nucci, L. P. (2009). Nice is not enough: Facilitating moral development. Merrill/Prentice Hall.
Nucci, L. (2016). Recovering the role of reasoning in moral education to address inequity and social justice. Journal of Moral Education, 45(3), 291-307.
Villaverde, L., Kincheloe, J., & Helyar, F. (2006). 13. Historical Research in Education. Doing educational research, 1, 311.
Watts, R. J., Williams, N. C., & Jagers, R. J. (2003). Sociopolitical development. American journal of community psychology, 31(1-2), 185-194.