The Roadmap

Learn to read the Roadmap The Roadmap

The Roadmap to Educating for American Democracy is an inquiry-based content framework for excellence in history and civics for all learners that is organized by major themes and questions, supported by key concepts. It is vertically spiraled across four grade bands (K–2, 3–5, 6–8, and 9–12), and offers a vision for the integration of history and civic education throughout grades K–12.

The document begins by introducing the seven themes around which the Roadmap is organized. It then presents five design challenges that span the seven themes and reflect the six core pedagogical principles presented in its Pedagogy Companion. These design challenges typically involve several valid, worthy, and well-articulated learning goals that exist in mutual tension. They state honestly and transparently some of the rich dilemmas that educators will encounter as they work with the content themes and pedagogic principles.

For each theme, a section defines the thematic questions for K–12 history and civics and the key concepts for grade bands K–5 and 6–12. Following this, the section provides driving questions and sample guiding questions for history and civics, indicated by these abbreviations.

The Roadmap’s history and civics content is organized into seven themes. While there is no hierarchy among the themes, and they might be variously sequenced in a scope and sequence, they do deliberately reflect a logical progression. They begin with the main task of public schooling: to prepare knowledgeable and motivated citizens to participate in American self-government. In general, the themes build from the human and natural elements of forming communities and a polity, then address the United States’ new mode of constitutional government, which perpetually forges a national political community, and more particular communities in the country’s complex ordering. The themes then move to the substantive achievements and challenges of American political development and self-government, framed through both historical and civic lenses; broaden out to the global context; and conclude with the ever-present need for citizens to commit to civil disagreement and an underlying civic friendship as we argue about how to live out, and live up to, our shared political principles. 

THEME 1: Civic Participation
THEME 2: Our Changing Landscapes
THEME 3: We the People
THEME 4: A New Government and Constitution
THEME 5: Institutional and Social Transformation—A Series of Refoundings?
THEME 6: A People in the World
THEME 7: A People with Contemporary Debates and Possibilities

Since the beginning of our collaboration, EAD initiative leaders have recognized that teaching a complete story of the United States is hard and full of contentions. Embracing those tensions as a feature, not a bug, of the Roadmap led us to develop five design challenges, which bring to the surface those questions of history and civics instruction that educators typically find the most difficult to navigate. These design challenges typically involve several valid, worthy, and well-articulated learning goals that exist in mutual tension.  Each of the seven content themes is connected to at least one design challenge. For a deeper explanation of each of the design challenges, see the Design Challenges overview.

Within each of the seven themes, content is broken down into history and civics driving questions that break down and scaffold the content to deepen students’ understanding of each theme as they get older. Then, within each set of history and civics driving questions, content is further broken down into sample guiding questions that provide a glimpse into the types of inquiries that teachers can plan when using the Roadmap.

For example, within Theme 2, “Our Changing Landscapes,” a K–2 history driving question is “How do communities name and talk about places?” This driving question is then broken down into sample guiding questions that help students explore their own story of place, as well as their communities and belonging. By 6–8th grade, a history driving question in the same theme is “How do borders change over time, and why?” This driving question is more complex and the sample guiding questions within it are more content-heavy, including questions that allow students to explore how the U.S. came to have its current borders, the history of territorial expansion, and the effects of that territorial expansion on various populations.

No, they are not. We hope that the sample guiding questions are illustrative of the vast instructional potential connecting the larger theme, the design challenge, and the driving question. However, we also acknowledge that this is not an exhaustive list of questions, and that there are many other great topics and questions that can be explored.

Unlike essential questions, which are about larger questions of civic life and history that do not have a predetermined right answer, driving questions in the Roadmap often do. An example of an essential question might be, “Does history really repeat itself?”, but with a driving question, students may focus on specific content, such as “How have Americans resisted or reacted to the expansion of rights and citizenship claims?”

There are some design features of the Roadmap which we hope will be helpful as educators consider using the driving and sample guiding questions. First, as a group, the Roadmap questions were developed to address the design challenges and are intentionally worded to surface tensions and even disagreements about a topic. Second, in addition to content itself, questions about students’ own identities, values, and their relationships to historical events and civic institutions are scaffolded across the grade bands. Those features were integrated because we center full preparation for active and informed participation in civic life as the central goal, which we believe is only possible when students have opportunities to deeply learn content while building agency and skills of civic actors.

No, and we recognize that there would be a lot of content to acquire in depth. First, the sample guiding questions are examples, not essential content, so we encourage educators to choose questions that are suitable to their classroom or even develop their own. Second, the initiative leaders are actively developing plans to best serve educators by curating existing resources from diverse groups of curriculum providers and teachers across the country to support you. Finally, we believe that students and teachers can engage in this inquiry-centered learning together, collaboratively working to uncover complex answers to thematic, driving, and guiding questions through discussions, debates, projects, research, and other instructional design tools mentioned in the Pedagogy Companion. We also recognize that some of the questions in the Roadmap do not have clear-cut answers, but rather are intended as a springboard for students and teachers to grapple with the tensions inherent in the narratives of American history and civics.

The Roadmap is an advisory document, intended to support a diversity of curricula, materials, lessons, and assessments and to work across a variety of state social studies standards. It will break new ground by presenting an integrated framework for what, why, and how to teach history and civics. As such, it is meant to inspire and inform the authors of state standards, curricula, textbooks, and other materials, as well as teachers themselves to rethink and reprioritize civics and American history education.

The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards was written originally as a general framework for authors of state standards. It identifies content to teach largely in the form of foundational concepts and disciplinary skills, not specific topics. For instance, the C3 Framework mentions analyzing the “multiple and complex causes and effects of events in the past” (D2.His.14.9-12), but does not specify which events. As the C3 Framework has gained broader use by states, curriculum writers, teachers, and others, the lack of specific topics has generated a desire for guidance about not only how, but what topics to teach in social studies.

The EAD Roadmap is meant to complement, not compete with, the C3 Framework, as it identifies specific topics for study. The C3 Framework emphasizes skills as an aspect of content; the EAD Roadmap adds more detail about topics through the use of concrete questions that should be taught. It identifies high-priority history and civics content essential to robust and authentic civic participation organized in seven content themes and five design challenges, all presented in the form of questions to be explored over the course of a K–12 education.

The EAD Roadmap and the C3 Framework share the philosophy that knowledge and understanding arise from the inquiry process: asking questions, conducting research, analyzing ideas, presenting conclusions, and applying acquired understanding by taking informed action. Inquiry serves to deepen conceptual understanding of content, moving beyond basic knowledge. The C3 Framework’s inquiry arc concludes with taking informed action, a practice that prepares students with the skills and dispositions to take an active role in their civic, community, and democratic institutions. In a constitutional democracy, we inquire in order to act well, which is why the C3 Framework inquiry arc concludes in taking action.

Read more about the EAD Roadmap and the C3 Framework. 

Absolutely! The Roadmap was designed as an advisory document that identifies high priority content areas for all K–12 students. Its seven major themes are centered around design challenges and thematic questions, which were intentionally created to be used within and amplify the efficacy of many different state standards. Our research team conducted an extensive review of every state’s social studies standards and found a strong alignment between the Roadmap themes and state standards, though states are diverse in terms of which themes are emphasized and when. What makes the Roadmap different from most state standards is its focus on inquiry, presenting content in the form of questions that should be explored over the course of a K–12 education. Read more about the EAD Roadmap and state standards.

Explore more questions and answers about the Educating for Democracy initiative and Roadmap.

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We the People

This theme explores the idea of “the people” as a political concept–not just a group of people who share a landscape but a group of people who share political ideals and institutions.

Read more about the theme in:

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Institutional & Social Transformation

This theme explores how social arrangements and conflicts have combined with political institutions to shape American life from the earliest colonial period to the present, investigates which moments of change have most defined the country, and builds understanding of how American political institutions and society changes.

Read more about the theme in:

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Contemporary Debates & Possibilities

This theme explores the contemporary terrain of civic participation and civic agency, investigating how historical narratives shape current political arguments, how values and information shape policy arguments, and how the American people continues to renew or remake itself in pursuit of fulfillment of the promise of constitutional democracy.

Read more about the theme in:

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Civic Participation

This theme explores the relationship between self-government and civic participation, drawing on the discipline of history to explore how citizens’ active engagement has mattered for American society and on the discipline of civics to explore the principles, values, habits, and skills that support productive engagement in a healthy, resilient constitutional democracy. This theme focuses attention on the overarching goal of engaging young people as civic participants and preparing them to assume that role successfully.

Read more about the theme in:

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Our Changing landscapes

This theme begins from the recognition that American civic experience is tied to a particular place, and explores the history of how the United States has come to develop the physical and geographical shape it has, the complex experiences of harm and benefit which that history has delivered to different portions of the American population, and the civics questions of how political communities form in the first place, become connected to specific places, and develop membership rules. The theme also takes up the question of our contemporary responsibility to the natural world.

Read more about the theme in:

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A New Government & Constitution

This theme explores the institutional history of the United States as well as the theoretical underpinnings of constitutional design.

Read more about the theme in:

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A People in the World

This theme explores the place of the U.S. and the American people in a global context, investigating key historical events in international affairs,and building understanding of the principles, values, and laws at stake in debates about America’s role in the world.

Read more about the theme in:

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The Seven Themes

The Seven Themes provide the organizational  framework for the Roadmap. They map out the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that students should be able to explore in order to be engaged in informed, authentic, and healthy civic participation. Importantly, they are neither standards nor curriculum, but rather a starting point for the design of standards, curricula, resources, and lessons. 

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Driving questions provide a glimpse into the types of inquiries that teachers can write and develop in support of in-depth civic learning. Think of them as a  starting point in your curricular design.

Learn more about inquiry-based learning in  the Pedagogy Companion.

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Sample guiding questions are designed to foster classroom discussion, and can be starting points for one or multiple lessons. It is important to note that the sample guiding questions provided in the Roadmap are NOT an exhaustive list of questions. There are many other great topics and questions that can be explored.

Learn more about inquiry-based learning in the Pedagogy Companion.

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The Seven Themes

The Seven Themes provide the organizational  framework for the Roadmap. They map out the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that students should be able to explore in order to be engaged in informed, authentic, and healthy civic participation. Importantly, they are neither standards nor curriculum, but rather a starting point for the design of standards, curricula, resources, and lessons. 

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The Five Design Challenges

America’s constitutional politics are rife with tensions and complexities. Our Design Challenges, which are arranged alongside our Themes, identify and clarify the most significant tensions that writers of standards, curricula, texts, lessons, and assessments will grapple with. In proactively recognizing and acknowledging these challenges, educators will help students better understand the complicated issues that arise in American history and civics.

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Motivating Agency, Sustaining the Republic

  • How can we help students understand the full context for their roles as civic participants without creating paralysis or a sense of the insignificance of their own agency in relation to the magnitude of our society, the globe, and shared challenges?
  • How can we help students become engaged citizens who also sustain civil disagreement, civic friendship, and thus American constitutional democracy?
  • How can we help students pursue civic action that is authentic, responsible, and informed?
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America’s Plural Yet Shared Story

  • How can we integrate the perspectives of Americans from all different backgrounds when narrating a history of the U.S. and explicating the content of the philosophical foundations of American constitutional democracy?
  • How can we do so consistently across all historical periods and conceptual content?
  • How can this more plural and more complete story of our history and foundations also be a common story, the shared inheritance of all Americans?
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Simultaneously Celebrating & Critiquing Compromise

  • How do we simultaneously teach the value and the danger of compromise for a free, diverse, and self-governing people?
  • How do we help students make sense of the paradox that Americans continuously disagree about the ideal shape of self-government but also agree to preserve shared institutions?
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Civic Honesty, Reflective Patriotism

  • How can we offer an account of U.S. constitutional democracy that is simultaneously honest about the wrongs of the past without falling into cynicism, and appreciative of the founding of the United States without tipping into adulation?
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Balancing the Concrete & the Abstract

  • How can we support instructors in helping students move between concrete, narrative, and chronological learning and thematic and abstract or conceptual learning?
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Each theme is supported by key concepts that map out the knowledge, skills, and dispositions students should be able to explore in order to be engaged in informed, authentic, and healthy civic participation. They are vertically spiraled and developed to apply to K—5 and 6—12. Importantly, they are not standards, but rather offer a vision for the integration of history and civics throughout grades K—12.

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Helping Students Participate

  • How can I learn to understand my role as a citizen even if I’m not old enough to take part in government? How can I get excited to solve challenges that seem too big to fix?
  • How can I learn how to work together with people whose opinions are different from my own?
  • How can I be inspired to want to take civic actions on my own?
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America’s Shared Story

  • How can I learn about the role of my culture and other cultures in American history?
  • How can I see that America’s story is shared by all?
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Thinking About Compromise

  • How can teachers teach the good and bad sides of compromise?
  • How can I make sense of Americans who believe in one government but disagree about what it should do?
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Honest Patriotism

  • How can I learn an honest story about America that admits failure and celebrates praise?
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Balancing Time & Theme

  • How can teachers help me connect historical events over time and themes?
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The Six Pedagogical Principles

 EAD teacher draws on six pedagogical principles that are connected sequentially.

Six Core Pedagogical Principles are part of our Pedagogy Companion. The Pedagogical Principles are designed to focus educators’ effort on techniques that best support the learning and development of student agency required of history and civic education.

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This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

EAD teachers commit to learn about and teach full and multifaceted historical and civic narratives. They appreciate student diversity and assume all students’ capacity for learning complex and rigorous content. EAD teachers focus on inclusion and equity in both content and approach as they spiral instruction across grade bands, increasing complexity and depth about relevant history and contemporary issues.

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This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

Growth Mindset and Capacity Building

EAD teachers have a growth mindset for themselves and their students, meaning that they engage in continuous self-reflection and cultivate self-knowledge. They learn and adopt content as well as practices that help all learners of diverse backgrounds reach excellence. EAD teachers need continuous and rigorous professional development (PD) and access to professional learning communities (PLCs) that offer peer support and mentoring opportunities, especially about content, pedagogical approaches, and instruction-embedded assessments.

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This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

Building an EAD-Ready Classroom and School

EAD teachers cultivate and sustain a learning environment by partnering with administrators, students, and families to conduct deep inquiry about the multifaceted stories of American constitutional democracy. They set expectations that all students know they belong and contribute to the classroom community. Students establish ownership and responsibility for their learning through mutual respect and an inclusive culture that enables students to engage courageously in rigorous discussion.

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This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

Inquiry as the Primary Mode for Learning

EAD teachers not only use the EAD Roadmap inquiry prompts as entry points to teaching full and complex content, but also cultivate students’ capacity to develop their own deep and critical inquiries about American history, civic life, and their identities and communities. They embrace these rigorous inquiries as a way to advance students’ historical and civic knowledge, and to connect that knowledge to themselves and their communities. They also help students cultivate empathy across differences and inquisitiveness to ask difficult questions, which are core to historical understanding and constructive civic participation.

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This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

Practice of Constitutional Democracy and Student Agency

EAD teachers use their content knowledge and classroom leadership to model our constitutional principle of “We the People” through democratic practices and promoting civic responsibilities, civil rights, and civic friendship in their classrooms. EAD teachers deepen students’ grasp of content and concepts by creating student opportunities to engage with real-world events and problem-solving about issues in their communities by taking informed action to create a more perfect union.

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This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

Assess, Reflect, and Improve

EAD teachers use assessments as a tool to ensure all students understand civics content and concepts and apply civics skills and agency. Students have the opportunity to reflect on their learning and give feedback to their teachers in higher-order thinking exercises that enhance as well as measure learning. EAD teachers analyze and utilize feedback and assessment for self-reflection and improving instruction.

X
This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:
EAD teachers commit to learn about and teach full and multifaceted historical and civic narratives. They appreciate student diversity and assume all students’ capacity for learning complex and rigorous content. EAD teachers focus on inclusion and equity in both content and approach as they spiral instruction across grade bands, increasing complexity and depth about relevant history and contemporary issues.

X
This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

Growth Mindset and Capacity Building

EAD teachers have a growth mindset for themselves and their students, meaning that they engage in continuous self-reflection and cultivate self-knowledge. They learn and adopt content as well as practices that help all learners of diverse backgrounds reach excellence. EAD teachers need continuous and rigorous professional development (PD) and access to professional learning communities (PLCs) that offer peer support and mentoring opportunities, especially about content, pedagogical approaches, and instruction-embedded assessments.

X
This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

Building an EAD-Ready Classroom and School

EAD teachers cultivate and sustain a learning environment by partnering with administrators, students, and families to conduct deep inquiry about the multifaceted stories of American constitutional democracy. They set expectations that all students know they belong and contribute to the classroom community. Students establish ownership and responsibility for their learning through mutual respect and an inclusive culture that enables students to engage courageously in rigorous discussion.

X
This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

Inquiry as the Primary Mode for Learning

EAD teachers not only use the EAD Roadmap inquiry prompts as entry points to teaching full and complex content, but also cultivate students’ capacity to develop their own deep and critical inquiries about American history, civic life, and their identities and communities. They embrace these rigorous inquiries as a way to advance students’ historical and civic knowledge, and to connect that knowledge to themselves and their communities. They also help students cultivate empathy across differences and inquisitiveness to ask difficult questions, which are core to historical understanding and constructive civic participation.

X
This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

Practice of Constitutional Democracy and Student Agency

EAD teachers use their content knowledge and classroom leadership to model our constitutional principle of “We the People” through democratic practices and promoting civic responsibilities, civil rights, and civic friendship in their classrooms. EAD teachers deepen students’ grasp of content and concepts by creating student opportunities to engage with real-world events and problem-solving about issues in their communities by taking informed action to create a more perfect union.

X
This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

Assess, Reflect, and Improve

EAD teachers use assessments as a tool to ensure all students understand civics content and concepts and apply civics skills and agency. Students have the opportunity to reflect on their learning and give feedback to their teachers in higher-order thinking exercises that enhance as well as measure learning. EAD teachers analyze and utilize feedback and assessment for self-reflection and improving instruction.