Commemorating 20 Years of IES: Jeremy Stoddard
Commemorating 20 Years of IES: Jeremy Stoddard

Commemorating 20 Years of IES
Jeremy Stoddard, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Jeremy StoddardIt is exciting to be able to honor the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) on the organization’s 20 year anniversary. This celebration is particularly noteworthy given the challenges many IES-funded projects have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and the many ways in which IES supported researchers and projects during this time. Despite these challenges, IES appears to be back and firing on all cylinders in supporting impactful research and development activities at a time when it is needed more than ever.

I am a relative newcomer to IES—as is my field of social studies education. While a number of social studies related projects have been funded over the years within literacy or educational technology funding programs, our grant was one of two funded under the special topic for Civics Education and Social Studies in 2019. This initial special topic within the National Center for Education Research has now been established as the Civics and Social Studies Education topic and is one of the only federally funded research programs specific to the field. Funding for research in this area is timely given the current context of politics in the US and the need for a research base to develop curricula and pedagogies for civic education.

Our project, PurpleState, has focused on the iterative development and testing of a simulation focused on developing argumentative reading and writing and the development of self-efficacy for media and civic engagement. In the simulation high school students play the role of interns at a political communications firm while they learn about media strategy and engage in developing a campaign on a state level public policy issue. They also break out of the simulation at key points to reflect on the system and eco-system being simulated and how it relates to their engagement with policy information in their own lives.

Key findings thus far show strong outcomes in knowledge gained about media strategies and in skills for argumentative thinking as well as growth in self-efficacy for civic and media engagement. Qualitatively, we find that this growth is in part attributed to the focus on state and local level policies and contexts. We also found that participants identify the ability to be more reflective on political advertising and information they are exposed to as a key outcome— as well as more empathy for those in the state or local area whom they disagree with on issues.

We greatly appreciate IES investing in the field of civic and social studies education as it is greatly in need of the kinds of investigations the level of funding IES provides. This research topic will provide greater opportunities for diverse teams of researchers to engage in high-quality and larger-scale studies than has been generally possible in the field. These studies in turn will help to both drive the intellectual and research capacity of the field as well as to inform national and state/local policy on what high-quality curriculum and pedagogies look like in civics and social studies classrooms and informal learning contexts. As a member of this community, I look forward to the opportunity to learn from studies funded in these areas and for scholars and graduate students to develop as a result of support from IES and the IES community.