Assessing deeper learning of high school civics




civic and social science education, deeper learning, assessment development, design-based implementation research


  • Deeper learning in civics is conceptually rich and facilitates learning in the future.
  • We developed and conducted research on an assessment model and a test of deeper learning in high school civics.
  • We used construct-driven assessment design to develop the assessment.
  • We conducted research on the assessment using Design-Based Implementation Research across 13 schools.
  • Core concepts and reasoning strategies for the course provided the framework for assessment alignment.

Purpose: Civic education is a central mission of public schools, and deeper learning of civics—learning that is complex and adaptive—is the goal. However, assessment of deeper civic learning is limited. Therefore, we aimed to develop an assessment model and test of deeper learning in the common high school civics course taught across the U.S.

Design/methodology/approach: Using Design-Based Implementation Research (DBIR), the assessment model and test were iteratively researched and revised by a  team of researchers and teachers across seven years and multiple settings.

Findings: Results of validity and reliability studies show that the model and test are promising tools for assessing deeper civic learning.

Research limitations/implications: Additional research is warranted to refine the test-development process, design alternative test forms, and adapt the model to other social studies courses.

Practical implications:  We suggest ways to use this assessment model to assess learning in civics and other social studies subjects.

Author Biographies

Sheila W. Valencia, University of Washington, Seattle

Sheila W. Valencia is Professor of Literacy Education Emeritus at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her research focuses on K-12 reading and writing instruction, assessment, and policy. She consults with national and state educational agencies in the USA to develop both large-scale and classroom-based assessments.


Walter C. Parker, University of Washington, Seattle

Walter C. Parker is Professor of Education and (by courtesy) Political Science Emeritus at the University of Washington, Seattle. His research focuses on civic education in elementary and secondary schools. His new book is Education for Liberal Democracy: Using Classroom Discussion to Build Knowledge and Voice. 

Jane C. Lo, Michigan State University

Jane C. Lo is Associate Professor of Teacher Education at Michigan State University. Her research focuses on the political engagement of youth, social studies curriculum development, and developing measures of deep learning and collaboration. Her methodological expertise includes mixed-methods designs, design-based implementation research, interview and survey methods, and advanced correlational techniques. She teaches courses in social studies methods.


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How to Cite

Valencia, S., Parker, W., & Lo, J. (2023). Assessing deeper learning of high school civics. JSSE - Journal of Social Science Education, 22(4).