Civically-Engaged Connected Learning

Teaching Democracy Across the Curriculum

Document-based Inquiries | Building a More Perfect Union


Educators from the Boise State Writing Project studied together and created units of study across the curriculum that give students opportunities to be citizen historians.

Tackling an essential question—How do we create learning experiences that support, challenge, and inspire our students to create a more perfect union in Idaho and in America?—educators from the Boise State Writing Project gathered for an institute focused on exploring dispositions of democracy and developed Document Based Inquiries (DBIs) that fit in existing units of study across the curriculum and gave students opportunities to be citizen historians. The project helps teachers and students tell fuller and more diverse stories of our national and state experience—and to recover silenced or untold stories and their implications.

Project Resources

Screenshot of project website

EMPOWER Your Teaching Towards a More Perfect Union
This website showcases the work of Idaho teachers involved in an institute focused on Dewey’s notion of conversation and the current cognitive science: our purpose and deep commitment is to foster more open inquiry and dialogue in schools around the issues that have historically preoccupied us as Americans—and more locally as Idahoans. The purpose is to learn to teach and think historically, to promote civic engagement through the humanities, and to appreciate the deep history of American conversations—and of Idaho in the context of national conversations.

Document-based Inquiries
Teachers in the institute developed Document-based Inquiries (DBIs) that can fit in existing units of study across the curriculum. DBIs focus on finding a variety of primary sources (including historical documents, interviews, photographs, artwork, and stories) and developing or recording new ones (by creating historical research instruments, conducting interviews, or recording stories). DBIs position students as citizen historians who develop new understandings and then justify and represent them. In this case through the development of multimedia museum exhibits that can be shared in both digital and physical forms. The teaching units will focus on “contact zones” of American history that have played out in Idaho, i.e., on contended topics where different interests and perspectives collide.

EMPOWER your Teaching
EMPOWER is a mental model that captures how experts in all fields apprentice learners into expertise as well as findings from across the learning sciences.

This post is part of the Building a More Perfect Union collection.