Can Historical Lessons Improve Civic Engagement? Learning from Facing History and Ourselves
The Facing History and Ourselves (FHAO) organization uses examples from history to improve students’ civic participation and responsibility, through FHAO-designed curricula and professional development to middle and secondary level teachers. The curriculum draws from specific historical examples of prejudice and bigotry to engage teachers, and then their students, as they read, critique, and assess both individual- and society-level decisions and consequences. Abt Associates carried out a randomized cluster design experiment to assess the impacts of program participation on teacher and student outcomes using a delayed treatment design in which schools and teachers assigned to the control group participated in the program in the subsequent school year. The study fielded detailed surveys to 200 teachers within approximately 80 schools about teaching and about classroom environments, and assessed more than 1,200 students’ historical understanding, civic awareness, and social maturity. Findings were used by FHAO to inform program development and refinement.