Ball State University has been awarded a grant from the
U.S. Department of Education, totaling more than $1.3 million over three years,
for its project, Civic Renewal through Education for Agency, or CREATE. The project is aligned with the American History and
Civics Education-National Activities program, which is funded by Congress as
part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Public Law 114–95.
In cooperation with Muncie Community Schools (MCS), Ball
State will develop the project as an innovative approach to instruction,
student learning, and professional development in civics that will integrate
American history, geography, government, and media literacy.
Anand R. Marri, dean of Ball State University's Teachers
College, and Dr.
David J. Roof, associate professor of Educational
Studies, will serve as co-principal investigators for the project. The team
from Ball State will also include: Dr.
Jill Bradley-Levine, associate professor of Educational Studies; Dr.
Jerrell C. Cassady, professor of Psychology-Educational
H. Elliott, lecturer of Journalism;
Michael T. Ndemanu, associate professor of Multicultural Education.
“Our CREATE team is driven to enhance educators’ capacity
to foster civic learning in students,” Dr. Marri said. “CREATE builds on both
time-tested and cutting-edge approaches to civic learning, integrating, and
adapting multiple evidence-based strategies, and tracking and assessing the
resultant outcomes to produce a replicable, scalable model for building the
civic capacity of communities through their K-12 schools.”
Once implemented, the CREATE project will have developed
the following components:
• A Civic Learning Repository, with an extensive set of
resources pertaining to civics, American history, geography, government, and
• An extensive set of professional development
opportunities for civics, history, and social studies teachers and
administrators offered during the school year to enhance and multiply the
resources and skills teachers bring to MCS’ civics and civics-related courses.
One major focus of this will be parent, family, and community engagement.
• A summer Civic Learning Academy for MCS teachers and
selected students. This 14-day program will immerse at least 10 teachers
annually in civics and history curriculum. The Academy will also immerse at
least 30 students annually in the same curriculum simultaneously with teachers,
providing teachers an opportunity to see students co-direct their own civic
learning and preparing students to model such agentic learning in their
• An emphasis on teacher-initiated, student-designed
civics and history projects and field trips. The CREATE project includes
funding, allocated on a competitive basis, for teachers with innovative ideas,
existing institutional resources, and identified opportunities for modeling
constructive civic practices.
• An annual Civic Learning Symposium for teachers,
students, project personnel, national experts, and other interested
stakeholders. This annual symposium will involve national experts in civics and
history as event speakers. As an interactive symposium, local teachers will
present their innovative approaches to civics in the classroom. This symposium
will also serve as a capstone event to recap innovations and achievements
during the previous year.
A major factor positioning Ball State to develop and
disseminate innovative and exceptional approaches to improve the quality of
American civics instruction is a new Indiana law that requires every middle
school student in the state to take a civics course by 2023. This new law
requires students in grades 6-8 to take a semester-long civics course, but the
law does not provide detailed guidance about course content and objectives or
about how to prepare educators to design and teach such a course.
“Ball State has demonstrated expertise in the development
of evidence-based approaches to improve the quality of American civics
instruction, as well as innovative learning and teaching related to history,
government, geography, and media literacy,” Dr. Roof said. “Accordingly, our
leadership in this collaborative partnership presents an opportunity to share
the learnings and demonstrably successful innovations of the CREATE project
beyond Muncie Community Schools. The aim is to provide a working model for
Indiana and other states to explore, test, and adapt.”
CREATE’s approach to civics education stems from a
collaboration with a multi-institutional team of nationally recognized scholars
currently piloting a civics curriculum for undergraduates and pre-service
This initial project, funded by the Teagle Foundation and
the Minnesota Humanities Center, sought to transcend the “civics wars” and
history wars” that occupy the higher-education commentariat by focusing,
instead, on the documented desire of college students themselves for a
practically democratic education: one that positions them for economic success
but also prepares them for lives of public purpose and productive citizenship.
The CREATE team is driven to enhance educators’ capacity
to foster three types of civic learning in students:
• Civic knowledge, or an understanding of American
history and political development, governmental structures and processes, and
relevant social studies knowledge and concepts.
• Civic skills, or the capacities that enable students to
participate in a democracy as free, responsible, deliberative, and productive
• Civic dispositions, or the attitudes important in a
democracy such as a sense of responsibility for one’s community and nation, an
awareness of a shared fate with fellow citizens, curiosity about the challenges
and opportunities of public life, and concern for the welfare of others.
“Our aim is to equip
schools to foster civic agency in their students,” Dr. Marri said. “Students
should have the capacity to work across differences for shared purposes, in
line with their considered values, yet in pursuit of a commonwealth reflecting
as many divergent perspectives and lifeways as basic justice, general health,
and universal dignity can accommodate.”