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IES Contract

Title: A More Perfect Union
Center: NCER Year: 2019
Principal Investigator: Trefry, Greg Awardee: Gigantic Mechanic
Program: Small Business Innovation Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (6/26/2019 – 6/25/2021) Award Amount: $897,103
Type: Phase II Development Award Number: 91990019C0041

Project Website:

Video Demonstration of the Phase I Prototype:

The project team will fully develop and test A More Perfect Union, a tablet-based role-playing game for classes of middle and high school students covering standards-aligned topics in social studies. Such interventions provide opportunities for students to learn about social studies and history, gain critical 21st century skills to be college and career ready, and prepare for active citizenship in a democracy.

Project Activities: During Phase I in 2018, the team developed a prototype of a tablet-based app that provides students information about a role to play in a historical event, and instructions for teachers to run the simulation. At the end of Phase I, results from pilot research with eight grade 11 classrooms over two days of role-playing demonstrated that the prototype functioned as planned, teachers believe that the full product concept could be implemented within a social studies course to cover content that aligns to the curriculum, and that 87% of students reported that they believe they would learn content while playing the game.

In Phase II of the project, the team will expand the app to include more features, curriculum, and training for teachers to integrate the game across different topics. In addition, the developers will finalize a virtual space for students to take notes, and a tool to cast votes with live tallies projected on a screen. After development concludes, researchers will conduct a pilot study to assess the feasibility and usability, fidelity of implementation, and the promise of the app. The team will collect data from 18 grade 9 to 11 classrooms and 360 students (20 per class), with half of the classes randomly assigned to play multiple simulations throughout the year and the other half to use business as usual activities to teach the same course content. Researchers will compare pre-and-post scores for knowledge and skills on topics that align to standards in social studies. Costs will be calculated based on the time that it takes teachers to prepare to use the game, and actual per student and class wide implementation costs.

Product: In this project, the developers will create A More Perfect Union, a tablet-based and class wide role-playing game for high school students. Using any web browser, teachers will access a library of simulations on a range of topics drawn from the AP U.S. History Curriculum and Common Core History Standards. The website will provide resources to guide implementation, including videos, individualized student profiles and real-time voting. Each student will be assigned to participate in a defined role as an active and engaged citizen of a period and tasked with navigating the challenges facing the nation at that time. Throughout the experience, the technology will guide participants with facts and primary sources, with students engaging in face-to-face discussions and debating issues central to the simulation. Played over multiple rounds and class periods, the simulation allows students to see the effects of decisions and consult with peers to iterate policy proposals based on new information and new arguments.