WWC review of this study

Evaluation of the We the People Program: Student Knowledge

Owen, D. (2018). Washington, DC: Georgetown University.

  • Quasi-Experimental Design
    , grades

Reviewed: June 2019

At least one finding shows moderate evidence of effectiveness
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards with reservations
Social Studies Achievement outcomes—Statistically significant positive effect found for the domain
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

Political Knowledge Test (Owen, 2018)

We the People vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Full sample;
1,015 students





Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

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  • Race
    Other or unknown


This study took place in civics, social studies, and American government classes in 12 public and private high schools throughout the state of Indiana. Two of the high schools were Title I schools serving high-need populations.

Study sample

Descriptive statistics are provided for neither the teachers nor the students in the sample.

Intervention Group

This study examines the effectiveness of the "We the People" (WTP) teacher professional development program and social studies curriculum on high school student acquisition of knowledge of civics and American government. The professional development intervention was administered through training institutes, workshops, and seminars. The intervention began with a multi-day summer institute where teachers interact with law, history, and political science scholars who are responsible for conveying high level content related to one or more of the essential questions and demonstrating effective pedagogy. In addition, participants interact with mentors, master teachers familiar with both the content and the pedagogy of the We the People curriculum. The mentor teachers are responsible for helping teacher participants master the content and understand how best to implement the program content in their classroom. The intervention also provides pedagogy sessions delivered by mentor teachers and university and college social studies methods professors that demonstrate “best practices,” including written argument development, Socratic questioning, interactive teaching strategies, primary document analysis, and critical reading of non-fiction sources. The final component of the professional development intervention focuses on assessment. In small groups of 4-6 teachers, and guided by mentor teachers, participants prepare written statements answering congressional hearing questions designed to complement the six units in the "We the People" textbook. The teacher participants are assessed based on: 1) their understanding of the basic issues involved in the question; 2) their knowledge of constitutional history and principles; 3) their use of sound reasoning to support their positions; 4) their use of historical or contemporary evidence and examples to support their positions; 5) the extent to which they answered the question asked; and 6) the extent to which most members contributed to the group’s presentation. Students in the intervention condition participated in the WTP curriculum as delivered by their teachers. According to the study author, the "program instructs students in the foundations and institutions of American government...A WTP textbook reflecting the curriculum is available ... As a culminating activity, WTP students take part in simulated congressional hearings. This exercise requires students to use primary source documents, conduct research, and develop succinct, yet complete, answers to probing questions" (p. 1).

Comparison Group

Schools in the comparison condition received business as usual.

Support for implementation

Teachers receive the WTP professional development program through training institutes, workshops, and seminars, and work with master teachers who are familiar with the content and pedagogy of the curriculum. Students receive the WTP curriculum as delivered by their teachers.


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