Informed Action Using Survey Data from Illinois Democracy Schools

The  Illinois Democracy Schools Network is wrapping up its 2022-23 C.L.A.D. (Civic Learning Across Disciplines) webinar series.  In the fifth session, Dr. Kelly Siegel-Stechler (Senior Researcher at the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University)  pointed out some current patterns that have been noted in Illinois Democracy Schools’ recent years’ survey data and provided several practical suggestions for current teams who are tasked with analyzing their own school’s results.

The session began with some background on the Illinois Democracy Schools surveys. These instruments are used by applicant schools, as well as schools that are renewing their status as Illinois Democracy Schools (every four years).  The surveys are carefully aligned with the IDS model, and guide teams in

  • understanding how things are going at their school, including strengths and growth areas in school-wide commitment to civic learning
  • identifying gaps between staff intentions and student perceptions
  • exploring inequities in student experiences and opportunities

Some current trends noted by Dr. Kelly Siegel-Stechler included:

  • There is a strong tendency for civic learning to occur mostly in Social Studies classrooms, but increasingly, students report that they learn about civics in  ELA and STEM courses,
  • A majority of students report participation in a simulation in a classroom and recall doing a reflection activity to draw meaningful connections between the simulation and their community. 
  • While a majority of staff report that they encourage students to express opinions in class, less than a quarter say that they (almost) always encourage students to discuss political or social issues that involve differing opinions.

Before looking at survey results, Dr. Siegel-Stechler believes that adequate preparation is critical in order for the team to make sense of the data.  This preparation should give the team the space to (1) think about what they want to find out from the data, (2) unpack some thinking they might already have about certain attributes of their school, and (3) reflect on what they intend to do with the results.  She also provided some technical guidance for teams as they actually consider the data: looking for variation/consistency across individual items, giving voice to experiences of team members that bring more nuance to these results, digging deeper into counter-intuitive results, finding connections across different items/elements, and exploring variation by sub-group.  (All of these items are discussed in more detail in the recording, which you can access here. And this slide deck by Dr. Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, CIRCLE Director,  provides another level of analysis.)


The Illinois Civics Hub and the Illinois Democracy Schools Network continue their commitment to host free after-school PD from our expert civic partners, A description for each webinar and information to register for professional development credits through the DuPage Regional Office of Education is available on the Illinois Civics Hub Professional Development Calendar.  The Illinois Civics Hub also has a newsletter that shares our free PD that is open to all. You can subscribe here!