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Civics Education and Social Studies


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FY Awards

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US History Through Young People's Eyes: An Efficacy Study of Mission US

Year: 2021
Name of Institution:
Education Development Center, Inc.
Goal: Initial Efficacy
Principal Investigator:
Kennedy, Joy
Award Amount: $3,001,232
Award Period: 3 years (09/01/2021 – 08/31/2024)
Award Number: R305A210223


Purpose: Mission US is an award-winning series of interactive games that is available at no cost for students in middle and high school to increase their knowledge of U.S. history. In the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 15% of students in grade 8 performed at or above the basic level of proficiency in U.S. history. One way to engage students in learning history is to create history learning resources that are designed to be relevant and appealing to young people's interests and regular activities, while simultaneously immersing students in historical events.

Project Activities: During Year 1, researchers will refine the Mission US games and activities to provide teachers and researchers with back-end data about students' gameplay via a teacher dashboard, then pilot test the procedures and outcome measures with 10 teachers. During Year 2, a national sample of approximately 70 schools will be randomly assigned either to use Mission US materials with their students for 3 months in addition to their regular curriculum or to continue with their regular curriculum. Students will be assessed before and after the intervention to measure their history content knowledge, ability to analyze and interpret documents, motivation to study history, and historical perspective-taking skills. During the final year of the project, the project team will analyze data and present findings to researchers, educators, administrators, and policymakers at conferences, and through publications, webinars, blogs, and other relevant venues.

Products: The team will share results with educators regarding the impact of Mission US on student learning and the real costs of implementation, as well as the revised teacher dashboard and streamlined curriculum.

Structured Abstract

Setting: Research will be conducted with teachers and students in Grade 8–10 history classrooms in 70 public schools across the U.S.

Population/Sample: Participants will include 70 Grade 8–10 social studies or history teachers and approximately 1,750 students (25 per class) evenly divided between treatment and control conditions. Students will represent a range of ability levels and racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The sample is intended to represent the typical Grade 8–10 population of U.S. urban public schools.

Intervention: Teachers in the intervention classrooms will receive guidance about implementing the Mission US digital suite and will use the intervention over three months. The intervention consists of two Mission US games and their curricular supports, covering key topics from 1900–1945, all tied together via a teacher dashboard that enables progress monitoring and in-depth classroom discussion. Curricular supports consist of teacher guides, web-based materials for classroom implementation, including student writing prompts, discussion questions, vocabulary lists, document-based exercises, and in-game quizzes.

Research Design and Methods: The study will employ a two-level clustered design, with randomization at the school level. During Year 1, the researchers will finalize and pilot the procedures and research instruments. During the Year 2, the researchers will conduct the randomized controlled trial and begin analyses, assessing student performance at baseline and after completion of the intervention. The researchers will collect data on teacher instructional practices and costs during the intervention. Year 3 will be dedicated to finalizing analyses and dissemination. Cost analyses will be planned for and conducted throughout the project.

Control Condition: Teachers and students in 35 Grade 8–10 classrooms will be randomly assigned to the control condition and will experience business-as-usual teaching with their standard history curriculum. Control teachers and students will have access to the games and supplemental curriculum after the study period.

Key Measures: Researchers will use items from the U.S. History National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to measure historical content knowledge, students' ability to analyze and interpret documents, and motivation to study history; the Individual Interest Questionnaire (IIQ) to assess interest in history; and create an assessment to measure historical empathy.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use a two-level model, with students nested within schools, with the treatment indicator at the school level. The researchers will examine the mediating impact of historical empathy and the influence of student- and teacher-level moderating variables, as well as the influence of background curriculum.

Cost Analysis: Researchers will evaluate the cost of implementing the Mission US intervention as compared to business-as-usual in control classrooms using the ingredients method. Initially, total cost of implementation will be used to provide cost per teacher and cost per student of implementing the program. How costs vary across sites and numbers of teachers or students served will be explored, as will the cost per Mission US game. To calculate a cost-effectiveness ratio, the incremental costs of implementing the Mission US intervention above and beyond the costs of the business-as-usual curriculum will be determined.