Evaluating Teachers’ Institutes: Using the Perceptions of Social Studies Teachers to Assess the Efficacy of Their Training
Students often graduate from high school with little understanding of what it means to become an active member of a democratic society, and many lack the citizenship skills required to do so. Since 2008, educators in Birmingham, AL, have attempted to counter these downward trends in civic education by experimenting with a program developed by the National Issues Forums Institute called National Issues Forums in the Classroom: A High School Program on Deliberative Democracy. The curriculum exposes students to a robust definition of citizenship, the democratic practice of deliberation, and what it takes for citizens to work through, and act on, the problems they share. In 2009, a Teachers’ Institute was added to provide additional content knowledge and preparation for teachers in their classroom exercises. This working paper by Kettering Foundation program officer Philip Lurie offers a brief synopsis of the conclusions and recommendations from a study that evaluated the Birmingham Teachers’ Institutes by assessing the perceptions of teachers on the efficacy of their training in this curriculum-specific professional development program. This study could enhance the policy field around teacher training, curriculum, and pedagogy by serving as a useful reference to policymakers as they consider the creation and implementation of other programs.