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Theory & Research in Social Education

ISSN: 0093-3104 (Print) 2163-1654 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/utrs20

Teaching Who You Are: Connecting Teachers’ Civic

Education Ideology to Instructional Strategies

Ryan T. Knowles

To cite this article: Ryan T. Knowles (2017): Teaching Who You Are: Connecting Teachers’
Civic Education Ideology to Instructional Strategies, Theory & Research in Social Education, DOI:

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00933104.2017.1356776

Published online: 22 Aug 2017.

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Download by: [University of Florida] Date: 20 October 2017, At: 15:40

Theory & Research in Social Education, 00: 1–42, 2017
Copyright © College and University Faculty Assembly of
National Council for the Social Studies
ISSN 0093-3104 print / 2163-1654 online
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00933104.2017.1356776

Teaching Who You Are: Connecting Teachers’ Civic

Education Ideology to Instructional Strategies

Ryan T. Knowles
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Utah State University

Abstract: This quantitative study uses survey data to test connections between 735
teachers’ civic education ideology (CivID) and their self-reported instructional prac-
tices. Analysis demonstrates teachers’ beliefs in relation to conservative, liberal, and
critical civic education ideology as well as preference for instructional strategies, such
as teacher–text and collaborative–research. Results indicate that high support for
particular civic education ideologies are associated with preferences for particular
instructional strategies. Endorsement of conservative civic education ideology was
positively linked to teacher–text instruction, whereas liberal ideology held a negative
association. Critical civic education ideology had a positive relationship with colla-
borative–research based instruction. Additional findings indicated differences in
instructional preferences and CivID based on teachers’ gender, grade level, community
type of school, racial makeup of school, and percent of students receiving free and
reduced lunch.

Keywords: civic education, CivID Scale, ideology, instruction, scale development,

social studies

The lament over the pervasiveness of traditional, lecture, textbook, tea-

cher-centered instruction comprises one of the more common themes of social
studies scholarship (Barton & Levstik, 2003; Grant, 2003; Knowles &
Theobald, 2013; Levstik, 2008; Ross, 2000; Russell, 2010; Russell &
Pelligrino, 2008; VanSledright, 2009; Wade, 1993). Certainly, several factors
influence teacher instructional decision making. However, many scholars echo
the sentiments of Barton and Levstik (2003; also McNeil, 1986), who posited
that teachers’ reliance on traditional instruction stems from pressure to control

Correspondence should be sent to Ryan T. Knowles, School of Teacher Education

and Leadership, Utah State University, 2805 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322.
Email: ryan.knowles@usu.edu
2 Knowles

students’ behavior and cover content. Others suggested that teachers possess
particular dispositions relating to teacher-centered instruction which stem from
their experiences as students (Lortie, 1975; Raths, 2001; Villegas, 2007).
Another approach considers teachers’ ideology as a driving force influen-
cing decisions, including instructional practices, made within the classroom.
Divisions of political ideology underlie nearly every facet of our society
(Abramowitz, 2010; Hess & McAvoy, 2015). Within the United States, ideo-
logical conflicts exist between those with preferences for tradition, conformity,
order, stability, traditional values, and hierarchy versus those for progress,
rebelliousness, chaos, flexibility, feminism, and equality (Jost, Nosek, &
Gosling, 2008). Often unacknowledged, ideological bias represents an indivi-
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dual’s position within this conflict (Eagleton, 1991). Many conceptualizations

of civic education instruction incorporate notions of ideology. For example,
Ross (2000) argued that the implementation of traditional instruction, which
strives to stick to the facts, guard against bias, and maintain neutrality, has
been ideologically driven and promotes antidemocratic dispositions among
students. M. Evans (2008) created a distinction between educational practices
that conflate ideology with various instructional practices and teacher orienta-
tions toward students. Discussions of instruction are often embedded within
the ideological perspectives of the author, with more conservative (Schug,
2003), liberal (Parker, 2010), or critical (Navarro & Howard, 2017) orientation
emphasizing strategies consistent with their perspectives. Such works are
essential to making theoretical connections between ideology and instructional
practices. However, deficient empirical evidence exists connecting teachers’
ideology with their instruction choices.
This study tested relationships between middle/high school teachers’
ideology and their self-reported instructional practices. Understanding this
phenomenon is important for three reasons. First, without testing the link,
teacher educators and researchers operate with an incomplete knowledge of
why teachers select and enact particular instructional practices. While this
study can provide evidence of a connection, future scholarship can provide
deeper insights to inform teacher education programs, professional develop-
ment, and curricula that consider teachers’ ideology. Second, this work calls to
question whether the practices encouraged by social studies teacher educators
are in ideological conflict with many of their students. Finally, social studies
education has long called for teachers to purposefully address controversial
issues and political partisanship (Hess, 2009; Hess & McAvoy, 2015; Ho,
McAvoy, Hess, & Gibbs, 2017; Hunt & Metcalf, 1955; Levinson, 2012;
Oliver & Shaver, 1966; Rugg, 1921). However, if teachers are themselves
ideologically driven political actors, their approaches to these issues may vary
significantly, perhaps even counter to the ideals of education for democracy.
Thus, in order to improve teacher education and the inclusion of controversial
issues to support democracy, as a field we must have a deeper understanding
of how teacher ideology manifests within the classroom.
Connecting Teachers’ Ideology to Instructional Strategies 3

To explore the connection between teacher ideology and instructional

practices, I surveyed middle and high school teachers working in the state of
Missouri. The nature of social studies courses presents many opportunities for
ideological perspectives to manifest. This study largely compared two con-
structs. The first, developed through rigorous scale development processes put
forth by DeVellis (2012), measured teachers’ civic education ideology based on
a review of important typologies within social studies education (Barr, Barth, &
Shermis, 1977; M. Evans, 2008; Knight Abowitz & Harnish, 2006; Parker,
1996; Stanley, 2005; Westheimer & Kahne, 2004). The Civic Education
Ideology (CivID) Scale includes three subscales assessing teachers’ support
for conservative, liberal, and critical citizenship perspectives within education.
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The second group of items measuring instructional practices was adapted from
the instrument implemented through the large-scale study The Status of the
Social Studies: Views from the Field (Passe & Fitchett, 2013). These items were
analyzed in other works (Fitchett & VanFossen, 2013; Knowles & Theobald,
2013), and the analysis demonstrated two subscales of collaborative–research
and teacher–text instruction. Through these measures, I addressed the central
question of whether a teachers’ relation to a particular CivID correlates to their
self-reported emphasis on particular instructional practices.


The term ideology was coined by Antonie Destut de Tracy during revolu-
tionary France in an effort to explore how human ideas may be reconstructed
to promote a rational and just society (Festenstein & Kenny, 2005). Since then,
dynamic theoretical debates have created competing views regarding the
nature of ideology. For example, Marx and Engels (1846/1976) argued that
ideology produces an inaccurate view of society to maintain the current social
order. Festenstein and Kenny (2005) stated, “Ideology papers over the real
conflicts in society, making what is artificial and coerced appear natural and
free” (p. 8). In contrast, Geertz (1973) viewed ideology more favorably as a
product of culture that helps render otherwise incomprehensible social struc-
tures meaningful and provides a sense of social cohesion. More recently, Jost
and Andrews (2011) defined ideology as

A network or system of interrelated beliefs, values, and opinions held by

an individual or group; they are typically (but by no means always) of a
political nature. Generally, an ideology contains assumptions about how
the social and political world is and how it ought to be. (p. 541)

Ideologies have the capacity to maintain existing social structures and

cultural beliefs. Political science scholarship has demonstrated that these
assumptions guide individuals’ decision making and moral judgments
4 Knowles

(Graham, Haidt, & Nosek, 2009; Haidt & Joseph, 2007; Jost et al., 2009). The
rest of this section briefly describes differing perspectives of civic education
within research and theoretical scholarship.
Due to ideological perspectives, views of what education is, and ought to be,
are not monolithic. Various competing models exist regarding how teachers
should educate our students for democratic citizenship (Barr et al., 1977; Castro,
2014; M. Evans, 2008; R. W. Evans, 2004; Knight Abowitz & Harnish, 2006;
Leming, 1992; Leming, Ellington, & Porter, 2003; Stanley, 2005). Likely driven
by ideological divides, these contrasting notions have led to intense political
conflicts within state boards of education and legislatures over social studies
curriculum and instruction (Cornbleth & Waugh, 1995; Hawkman & Cuenca,
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2016; Placier, Walker, & Foster, 2002). Leming (1992) posited that such divisions
create an ideological cleavage between teacher educators and practicing teachers
within social studies education. Several scholars have worked to contextualize
divisions between epistemologies, civic education, and social studies more gen-
erally. Some examples include Barr et al.’s (1977) social transmission, social
science, and reflective inquiry; Knight Abowitz and Harnish’s (2006) civic repub-
licanism, liberal citizenship, and critical citizenship; Westheimer and Kahne’s
(2004) personally-responsible, participatory, and justice-oriented citizens; and
M. Evans’s (2008) education for transmission, transaction, and transformational
citizenship. Important differences exist within these typologies. However, they
share related divisions with teacher-centered student learning emphasizing assim-
ilation in one category, a more critical, active/inquiry based model in another, and
liberal perspectives of civic engagement, tolerance, and inclusion in the middle.
Within civic education, transmission-oriented perspectives are reinforced
by the ways in which teachers envision themselves and the purpose of school-
ing. Studies have demonstrated that teachers are attached to views of social
studies and citizenship education that relate to the aforementioned typologies.
For example, Anderson, Avery, Pederson, Smith, and Sullivan (1997) found
teachers’ views of citizenship education grouped into critical thinkers, legalist,
cultural pluralists, and assimilationist. Patterson, Doppen, and Misco (2012)
employed a mixed method study to group teachers using the typology of
Westheimer and Kahne (2004). Their study indicated that roughly two thirds
of teachers felt a “good citizen” was synonymous with personally responsible
citizenship, compared to a quarter attached to participatory citizenship, and
just 4% for justice-oriented citizenship. Finally, Castro (2013) explored pre-
service teachers’ understandings of citizenship skills and found attachment to
conservative values-based definitions of citizenship and awareness-based defi-
nitions of citizenship as opposed to critical multicultural citizenship. Taken
together, these studies indicate the primacy of liberal and conservative notions
of citizenship and little teacher support for critical notions of education.
The scholarship addressing teacher dispositions provides valuable context
into how ideology manifests within the classroom. For example, Villegas
(2007) defined dispositions as “the tendencies for individuals to act in a
Connecting Teachers’ Ideology to Instructional Strategies 5

particular manner under particular circumstances, based on their beliefs” (p.

373). Raths (2001) explained that teachers often dismiss teaching that chal-
lenges their beliefs as too theoretical, too impractical, or simply wrong. Thus,
teachers have dispositions that are resistant to change and directly influence
their teaching. Related to this claim, social studies scholarship has drawn
attention to curriculum and instructional practices that promote particular
ideological beliefs (Camicia, 2009; Chappell, 2010; DeLeon, 2008; Martell,
2013; Ross, 2000; Shear, Knowles, Soden, & Castro, 2015). To this point,
Apple (2008) posited that implicit bias manifests within classroom discussions
through unacknowledged gendered and racialized assumptions. Thus, a tea-
cher’s ideological assumptions may limit free and open dialogue. For example,
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Beck (2013) studied discussions of same-sex marriage in high school class-

rooms and found that the assumption of heterosexuality and the nature of
LBGTQ people pervaded the discussion. His findings demonstrated that
romanticized notions of classroom climate are inadequate when considering
such a controversial political discussion topic. These studies collectively
demonstrate the existence of ideological barriers that, left unchecked, limit
the free flow of ideas, curriculum, and thought within a classroom space and
that subsequently limit the ability of controversial issue discussion necessary
for democratic education.
Although the reviewed scholarship established the implications of teacher
beliefs, few have demonstrated direct connections between teachers’ ideology
and social studies teachers’ instructional decisions. A recent exception,
Gainous and Martens (2016), used data from the 1999 International
Education Association (IEA) Civic Education study to test whether teachers
identified as liberal enact an open classroom climate more than their conser-
vative peers. Their study utilized a proxy for ideology through items devel-
oped for a good citizenship scale that were grouped based on theoretical
consistency with liberal and conservative ideologies. They found that teachers
they identified as liberal were more likely to enact an open classroom climate.
Other studies have shown that teacher beliefs influence how ideas and con-
cepts are incorporated into classroom practices. For example, Chin and Barber
(2010) demonstrated that teacher beliefs relating to subject, learning, teaching,
and self-efficacy relate to their behaviors in the classroom. Using case studies,
Castro (2013) found that teachers’ conceptions of citizenship education were
related to the types of skills they thought were important for students to learn.
Onosko (1991) identified that preservice teachers’ view of social studies as
knowledge transmission hindered higher-order thinking. In addition,
Goodman and Adler (1985) uncovered that pre-existing belief systems influ-
ence a preservice teacher’s orientation to social studies teaching. Finally,
Bennett and Spalding (1992) found that prospective social studies teachers
filter out ideas they cannot reconcile with their pre-existing schema. Together,
these studies support the premise that teachers’ ideology has a relationship
with teachers’ instructional choices.
6 Knowles


The research highlighted above demonstrates teacher support for notions

of social studies and civic education. This study builds on their findings by
implementing a scale designed to measure teachers’ CivID. Such a scale can
lead to rich analysis to further our understandings of how ideology manifests
within the classroom. This section elaborates on the CivID typology devel-
oped from a review of influential civic ideology studies (Barr et al., 1977; M.
Evans, 2008; Knight Abowitz & Harnish, 2006; Parker, 1996; Stanley, 2005;
Westheimer & Kahne, 2004), with a particular focus on connecting ideology
to instruction. Each of the reviewed typologies have three categories relevant
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to civic education but with slightly different focus. For example, Westheimer
and Kahne (2004) were primarily concerned with students’ behavior related to
good citizenship, whereas Knight Abowitz and Harnish (2006) assessed ideo-
logical divisions in citizenship curricula. The six typologies were reviewed
and incorporated into a table in which the various categories could be better
compared. From this comparison, the CivID typology emerged. To provide
context relating to the CivID typologies, Table 1 includes a brief description
and sample items that were used to assess this typology.
The following descriptions give a brief explanation of each CivID based
on the theoretical literature related to the particular ideology. Within the
scholarship, notions of civic education and instruction are embedded within
the philosophical assumptions inherent to the CivID. As a result, each ideo-
logical perspective has a subsection discussing key perspectives relating to
instruction within that ideological perspective made by corresponding scho-
lars. A teacher may, and likely does, hold competing ideological positions and
instructional approaches depending on the course they are teaching, topics
within these courses, school contexts, and perceptions of student ideology.
Therefore, teachers’ attitudes likely do not fit neatly within these categories
and should be thought of with nuance when considering the relationships
between ideology and instruction.

Conservative Citizenship Education

Ideologically, conservative civic education assumes a monolithic definition

of American culture (Knight Abowitz & Harnish, 2006). The focus represents
passing down the logic and wisdom of previous generations to assimilate new
citizens who will, in turn, take the lead in maintaining the United States’
position as a global power. The role of education in this process emphasizes
the reproduction of existing societal patterns and promotes a sense of national-
ism and advocacy for free-market economics (Barr et al., 1977; M. Evans, 2008;
Knight Abowitz & Harnish, 2006; Patrick, 2003). Indeed, civic education in the
United States has traditionally served the purpose of inducting each generation
into a culture based on political and civic order. Often, this perspective treats
Connecting Teachers’ Ideology to Instructional Strategies 7

Table 1. CivID Description and Sample Items

Conservative CivID
Description: Conservative civic education promotes a commitment to the traditions of
the nation state and respect for its symbols (for example, patriotism, rule of law, and
civic duty). Education for conservative citizenship would promote the need for
increased civic literacy, free-market orientations, and a central body of fixed civic
knowledge based on functions of government and the Constitution.
Sample Items:
That a strong foreign policy should protect the United States’ position as a global
Government assistance discourages people from improving their lives
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That the free market can solve most social problems

The importance of honoring the history and heritage of the United States

Liberal CivID
Description: Liberal CivID emphasizes individual rights to pursue different ways of life
by promoting more pluralistic views of citizenship. Liberal civic education supports
increased participation in democratic and civic institutions in order to improve
society. Educators implementing liberal citizenship avoid teaching fixed beliefs.
Instead, classrooms incorporate learning of values and skills necessary to take part in
a culturally diverse society.
Sample Items:
The importance of coming up with your own personal opinion before voting
Students how to think, instead of what to think
Skills such as cooperation and deliberation with others
The importance of participating in a diverse society

Critical CivID
Description: Critical citizenship ideology focuses on limitations of human freedom by
emphasizing the systematic oppression of various groups within society based on
identity. Education for critical citizenship deconstructs traditional civic knowledge
through discussion, analysis, and evaluation of history and contemporary society
from multiple perspectives while working for systemic change toward social justice.
Sample Items:
About practices of racism, sexism, and class exploitation in everyday life
The presence of institutional racism in modern society
Root causes of inequality in society
About the experiences and goals of marginalized people in society

democracy as accomplished and multiculturalism as a challenge (Ellington &

Eaton, 2003; Schlesinger, 1992). For example, Patrick (2003) stated,

Cultural diversity flourishes in a free and democratic society, such as the

United States of America. And national and civic unity may be at risk in
such a multicultural society. Unless citizens with diverse identities
8 Knowles

regarding race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and socioeconomic class can

know and support in common certain civic principles and values, they
will not develop a common and unifying civic identity, which can be the
cohesive core of a multicultural society. And a functioning civic com-
munity or civil society will be sustained only if citizens can commu-
nicate and cooperate in terms of a common civic culture. (p. 18)

Thus, as Patrick suggested, conservative civic education works for a

social studies that promotes a sense of unified national identity and social
order as well as pride and respect for constitutional republicanism and
American exceptionalism.
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Relating to instruction, conservative civic education puts particular empha-

sis on civic knowledge related to civic republican discourse as well as focuses
on the successes of American history, institutions, and seminal works, such as
the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Barr et al. (1977) and M. Evans (2008)
referred to this stance as education for citizenship transmission, which empha-
sizes fixed core knowledge and skills for students to learn and believe. M.
Evans (2008) depicted such classrooms as having resources selected and pro-
vided by the teacher for the purpose of conveying information, desks organized
in rows so teachers can directly address students, the classroom space organized
by the teacher to convey important course content, and teaching practices
associated with the mastery of content and basic skills that are demonstrated
through quizzes and short answer tests (such as multiple choice). Schug (2003)
claimed that teachers find this type of teacher-centered instruction to be the most
effective way of achieving student learning. Under this perspective, a teacher is
the expert tasked with imparting certain values on the student, therefore negat-
ing the importance of students’ experiences and learning among peers.
While research supporting Schug’s (2003) claim is lacking, studies have
consistently suggested the dominance of teacher-led instruction among practi-
cing social studies teachers (Knowles & Theobald, 2013; Passe & Fitchett,
2013; Russell, 2010). More than 20 years ago, Wade (1993) estimated that
70–90% of instruction time was textbook based. Russell (2010) showed that
not much has changed through analysis of survey data of 281 secondary social
studies teachers from across the United States that completed a 35-question
Likert-style survey. Russell’s study demonstrated that at least half the time,
79.81% of teachers implemented textbook assignments, 68.67% had students
read aloud from the textbook, and 87.53% emphasized note taking. In addition
to textbook work, lecturing remained pervasive. In the same study, Russell
also found that 90% of high school social studies teachers utilize lecture half
of the time or more. However, Knowles and Theobald (2013) found that
teacher-centered classroom instruction was strongest in general education
courses, such as mainstream American History or World History classes,
and was less prevalent in Advanced Placement and elective courses.
Knowles and Theobald’s findings suggested a varying perspective of student
Connecting Teachers’ Ideology to Instructional Strategies 9

learning in which teacher-centered activities were viewed as more appropriate

for the general population of students, and collaborative–research student-
centered approaches were more suitable for advanced students. Thus, most
students experience social studies in a top-down fashion where knowledge is
selected and delivered, with the student’s sole responsibility to memorize and
repeat. Perhaps as a result, most students view social studies as boring and dry
(Chiodo & Byford, 2004).
Social studies scholars often lament the emphasis on teacher-centered,
textbook-driven social studies instruction. However, Apple (2004) argued that
the historical roots of education were, in part, designed to teach “behavioral
consensus, institutional rather than personal goals and norms” (p. 42). Thus,
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this teacher-centered notion of social studies fulfills the original functionalist

goal of promoting an ideology of social stability, principles, and commonsense
rules which govern the existing social order (Apple, 2004). More directly,
Apple suggested that schools are doing what they were originally tasked.

Liberal Citizenship Education

Liberal perspectives on education recognize that economic and social

inequity lead to political inequality, which limits the representation of the
interests of marginalized communities within competitive democratic institu-
tions. This view is largely based on research demonstrating a civic empower-
ment gap, in which non-White, low socio-economic, and other marginalized
students lack the same opportunities for civic empowerment possessed by their
more privileged peers (Hart & Atkins, 2002; Levinson, 2010; McLeod, Shan,
Hess, & Lee, 2010; Sherrod, 2003; Verba, Schlozman, & Burns, 2003). Thus,
the dream of democracy remains unfulfilled and requires reform in the interest
of the larger common good. Knight Abowitz and Harnish (2006) conceptua-
lized liberal citizenship as the right of individuals to form, revise, and pursue
their own definition of the good life.
The roots of liberal education stem from Dewey (1935/1987), who argued
for the replacement of laissez-fair economics with intelligent social action in
order to remove hindrances to liberty. Dewey’s notion of democratic education
advocated for the promotion of a general intellectualization of society by
enhancing individual competence for reflective thought to analyze social pro-
blems. To this end, liberal civic education requires students to engage with peers
to understand differing norms, values, and perspectives. This approach applies
notions of democratic humanism by accepting differing perspectives of the
common good but advocates for democratic deliberation to develop shared
interests and visions (Barton & Levstik, 2004; Gutmann, 1987; Levstik &
Barton, 2001). For example, Rawls (1972, 1999) claimed that certain liberal
values and individual rights are universally applicable and should provide a
common standard for judging all societies. When such values are in place, all
members in society (who are reasonable) can converge in a multicultural
10 Knowles

community. In sum, liberal citizenship recognizes democracy as inherently a

competitive political system and aims to equip all citizens with the capability to
act and instill values to recognize every person’s right to compete within that
system. Thus, liberals work to promote socially and economically marginalized
peoples’ inclusion into, and capability to participate in, an existing democratic
polity through encouraging mass tolerance, improving education, enhancing
voter enfranchisement, and expanding social welfare.
Strong evidence exists regarding the efficacy of liberal notions of civic
education toward empowering youth to engage in civic and political life.
Research studies interested in the effectiveness of liberal citizenship education
on positive civic outcomes are heavily based on the work by Youniss,
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McLellan, and Yates (1997), which conceptualized factors that develop civic
identity, including opportunities for agency and industry, social relatedness, and
the development of political–moral understandings. Kahne and Sporte (2008)
studied over 4,000 students in 52 Chicago schools and found that such civic
learning opportunities significantly predict students’ commitment to civic parti-
cipation. Moreover, the work of Parker (2003, 2006, 2008, 2010) has consis-
tently shown how teachers can cultivate democratic attitudes among students
through methods that enlarge understandings of issues, such as seminars, and
methods to solve problems, such as deliberation. For example, Parker (2010)
asserted that democratic education requires listening and talking to “strangers”
about powerful ideas to build on the experiences of their peers to promote
deeper knowledge and consensus. Similarly, Levy (2011) demonstrated that a
course on civic advocacy led to increased political efficacy and persistence
compared to a control class by allowing students to build their knowledge base
and skills in communicating, evaluating sources, vision-building, and reflecting.
In addition, large-scale international research frames this instruction as an
open classroom climate where students are encouraged to make up their own
minds, express opinions, bring up current political events, express and discuss
differing opinions, and present several sides of an issue (Schulz, Ainley,
Fraillon, Kerr, & Losito, 2010; Torney-Purta, Lehmann, Oswald, & Schulz,
2001). Indeed, the power of an open classroom climate to produce positive
civic outcomes is well documented and dates back nearly 40 years (Knowles
& Di Stefano, 2015; Torney, 1977). More recently, studies using data from
large-scale international datasets, such as the IEA Civic Education and
International Civic and Citizenship Studies, found that an open classroom
climate is positively associated with support for human rights, increased civic
knowledge, political self-efficacy, increased political participation, and social
movement citizenship (Knowles & McCafferty-Wright, 2015; Torney-Purta &
Barber, 2005; Torney-Purta, Wilkenfeld, & Barber, 2008; Zhang, Torney-
Purta, & Barber, 2012). Thus, liberal civic education requires teachers to
create a classroom environment where students engage with each other, con-
trasting ideas are explored, and open dissent is welcome. Within such a
classroom, teachers encourage norms of tolerance and open-mindedness to
Connecting Teachers’ Ideology to Instructional Strategies 11

allow for members of different communities to understand the values of their

peers and find shared interests.
Liberal civic education largely serves to promote two goals, which
include empowering marginalized communities to take part in competitive
democracy and also promoting a common good inherent to a democratic
society, recognizing the need of including all citizens in the decision-making
process (Knight Abowitz & Harnish, 2006). These goals are accomplished
through inquiry-based instructional practices that employ discussion and
deliberation among students facilitated by a skilled teacher.

Critical Citizenship Education

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Critical theory arose as a challenge to assumptions inherent to earlier

paradigms of positivistic, empirical–analytic, or objectivist research. Well-
engrained in social studies scholarship, the term “critical” is an umbrella
term for a variety of perspectives, including, but not limited to, critical
geography (Schmidt, 2013; Segall, 2013), critical global citizenship education
(Gaudelli, 2013; Gaudelli & Heilman, 2009), AsianCrit (An, 2016), critical
race theory (Navarro & Howard, 2017; Woodson, 2016), feminist perspectives
(Bohan, 2017), and queer discourses (Camicia, 2016; Mayo, 2017). As this list
indicates, critical approaches to citizenship reach across traditional boundaries,
such as civics, history, and geography. Providing a general definition,
Cornbleth (2017) stated, “Critical theory is a particular genre of theories that
raises additional questions about assumptions, implications or likely conse-
quences, and who benefits from a situation or course of action” (p. 192).
Applied to civic education and the social studies, critical scholarship inter-
rogates and critiques social systems, practices, and ideologies believed to
promote domination and subordination.
Critical citizenship calls attention to the deficiency, lack of, or even the
existence of democracy. Where liberal citizenship works to empower margin-
alized communities to improve on an existing democracy, critical citizenship
calls for greater social and institutional change by emphasizing issues of group
membership and structural oppression (Bickmore, 2008; M. Evans, 2008;
Knight Abowitz & Harnish, 2006; Tyson & Park, 2008). Certainly, liberal
notions of empowerment represent a noble goal. However, Cruikshank (1999)
argued that technologies of citizenship, including schools, amount to the
regulation of the poor by assimilating marginalized youth into a social,
economic, and political system within which they are inherently disadvan-
taged. As such, Papastephanou (2008) posited that traditional notions of
citizenship education, such as liberal and conservative notions, do not provide
views of society distinct from what already exist. Therefore, common views of
citizenship education serve to promote the perpetuation of current inequitable
political and social realities. Or as Tyson and Park (2008) asserted, “Our
efforts for civic education have not fallen far from the racism, sexism,
12 Knowles

homophobia, classism (and the list continues) reflected in our society” (p. 37).
Knight Abowitz and Harnish (2006) discussed critical citizenship as a chal-
lenge to traditional views of citizenship by calling attention to the failure of
including groups, such as women, non-White, working class, impoverished,
and LBGTQ communities, within the vision of American democracy. To
address this issue, critical citizenship stresses the relationships between people
and groups and criticizes the social structures that perpetuate unequal access
and contribution to civic life (Castro, 2013; Dilworth, 2008).
Instruction relating to critical citizenship uses many of the strategies
inherent to liberal citizenship education but rejects what Castro and Knowles
(2017) referred to as idealized civic practices, which present a romanticized
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view of society through a lens of objectivity and neutrality (Apple, 2004,

2008; Ross, 2000). Instead, critical pedagogy emphasizes critical stories that
provide “a much clearer picture of the society’s already unequal cultural,
economic, and political dynamics” (Apple, 1993, p. 26). Knowledge is derived
from structural social analysis examining asymmetries in power and the effects
of colonization/decolonization, from a variety of perspectives (Dejaeghere &
Tudball, 2007; Kumashiro, 2000; Popkewitz & Fendler, 1999). While the
value of critical pedagogy has been widely acknowledged among social
studies scholars, implementation challenges common assumptions regarding
the purpose of schools (Apple, 2004).
As mentioned, approaches to critical education span disciplinary divides.
However, generally speaking, classrooms emphasizing critical citizenship
education focus on addressing authentic community needs, fostering activist
norms of citizenship, understanding power structures that produce margin-
alization, humanizing the other, starting from lived experiences, and cultivat-
ing critical attitudes (Dilworth, 2008; M. Evans, 2008; Tyson & Park, 2008).
Castro (2010b) presented a model of critical multicultural citizenship educa-
tion that includes three aspects. The model began by proposing an anti-
oppressive, humanist pedagogy that requires both the oppressor and oppressed
to “take into account their behavior, their view of the world, and their ethics”
(Freire, 1999, p. 37). Secondly, critical multiculturalism fosters knowledge to
help us “understand how social relationships are distorted and manipulated by
relations of power and privilege” (McLaren, 2003, p. 197). Finally, critical
multicultural citizenship encourages collective action as a way to transform
institutional barriers. Building on this framework, Navarro and Howard (2017)
reviewed research on the implementation of social studies through critical race
theory and demonstrated the power of historical counternarratives as a method
of addressing race and racism in the classroom. In addition, Gaudelli and
Heilman (2009) argued for a repositioning of geography education away from
commonly implemented apolitical disciplinary approaches to inquiry and
toward a critique-based curriculum that explores unequal power relations,
develops resistance, and works to transform society.
Connecting Teachers’ Ideology to Instructional Strategies 13

While critical citizenship education may be less common within schools

than the other two notions, research has depicted examples of teachers suc-
cessfully implementing the strategies within the classroom. Marri (2005)
investigated three secondary social studies teachers who successfully imple-
mented a model of multicultural democratic education, which used critical
pedagogy to provide their students with codes of power, community building,
multiple perspectives, and skills for social action. In addition, Castro (2010a)
conducted a case study of three preservice teachers who attempted to teach for
critical multicultural citizenship during their student-teaching semester. These
teachers felt constrained by the culture of accountability but were able to
negotiate these constraints and implement critical multicultural education
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through various strategies, such as deemphasizing the test, sneaking in multi-

cultural and critical content, and addressing multiple perspectives.
Because of constraints described above, critical citizenship education
remains rare in public schools. As an explanation, Sleeter (2008) pointed out
that White teachers, the vast majority, often fail to recognize the pervasiveness
of racial inequity, hold deficit views and lower expectations toward students of
color, adopt a colorblind approach to teaching that denies the very significance
of race, and lack a sense of themselves as cultural beings by viewing their own
cultural lenses as the norm. In other words, common sets of ideologies and
beliefs often lead teachers to view schools and institutions as “fair and
democratic sites where all students are provided with similar, if not equal,
treatment and learning conditions” (Bartolome, 1994, p. 174), which suggests
that, depending on the context, implementing critical education can lead to
substantial risk, real or perceived, of public school teachers.


This project used self-reported survey data to assess whether a teacher’s

relation to a particular CivID correlates with their emphasis on particular
instructional practices. To address this aim, the research questions below
were used to understand teachers’ CivID, instructional emphasis, and the
relation between the two.

1. What are the patterns of instructional practices and ideological per-

spectives that middle/high school social studies teachers self-report?
2. Is there a significant correlation between a teacher’s ideological positions
and their emphasis on particular self-reported instructional strategies?

To provide context to these questions, several theoretical assumptions

were tested through statistical analysis. As depicted above, the ideological
assumptions of conservative citizenship education place a strong emphasis on
passing down the wisdom and logic of what worked in previous generations to
14 Knowles

a new generation of Americans. Therefore, a teacher with strong support of

conservative citizenship education ideology may tend toward teacher–text
instruction by positioning themselves as the knowledge expert, though text-
books serve as the central mode of transferring knowledge. In contrast, liberal
citizenship education ideology puts strong emphasis on competition but still
likely incorporates diverse notions of the common good. As a result, teachers
of liberal citizenship may tend toward collaborative–research based instruction
to develop students’ sense of their own capabilities to take part in civic and
political life. There may also be an emphasis on tolerance and open-mind-
edness. Finally, critical citizenship likely rejects traditional notions of democ-
racy and instead works to remake society into a new social order. To
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accomplish this, teachers scoring high on critical CivID may emphasize

collaborative–research based instruction and consistently engage students in
self-reflection and structural analysis.


A sample of 2,773 middle and high school social studies teachers was
procured from the Missouri Department of Education. The survey was admi-
nistered via email using Qualtrics and took place over 6 weeks in March,
2014, with weekly reminder emails sent to non-responsive accounts. Three
$50 gift cards provided incentives. In the end, 735 took the survey, resulting in
a response rate of 26.5%. The demographics of the teacher sample are located
in Table 2 along with some statistics from the general population of Missouri
teachers. These numbers were procured from the Missouri Department of
Elementary and Secondary Education. The survey was organized with the
major constructs relating to ideology and instruction at the beginning and
teacher demographics located at the end. As a result, some teachers did not
finish these final items, which accounts for the lower number of responses in
Table 2, with later analysis that does not include the demographic variables.


A brief introduction to the central measures of this study takes place

below. In general, the subscales of CivID (conservative, liberal, and critical)
are the independent variables of interest, while the subscales of instruction act
as the dependent variables. In addition, school characteristics and teacher
demographics were considered.
CivID. The process of scale development to measure teachers’ orientation to
the civic education ideologies contained several steps derived mostly from DeVellis
(2012). He posited that the scale development process should include six steps: (1)
clarify the measure, (2) generate an item pool, (3) determine the format of the
measure, (4) expert review and administer items to a development sample, (5)
inclusion of validation items, (6) evaluate the items (Knowles, 2017).
Connecting Teachers’ Ideology to Instructional Strategies 15

Table 2. Teacher Demographics

Sample teachers Missouri teachers

Years teaching
Under 5 years 11.44% 24.04%
6–10 years 15.67% 23.75%
11–15 years 19.62% 19.76%
16–20 years 15.40% 13.45%
Over 20 years 37.87% 19.00%
Community type
Urban 9.39% 14.02%
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Rural 44.71% 54.62%

Suburban 45.90% 31.36%
Racial makeup of school
Almost all White 34.41% Unknown
Mostly White with some minorities 46.51%
About 50% White and 50% minority 8.86%
Mostly minority with some White 5.28%
Almost all minority 4.94%
Male 52.04% 58.85%
Female 47.62% 41.15%
Other 0.34% 0.00%
Grade Level
High school 66.89% Unknown
Middle school 33.11%
Teacher race
Black 1.70% 3.69%
Native American or Alaska Native 0.34% 0.20%
Asian 0.34% 0.27%
Hispanic or Latino/Latina 0.68% 0.28%
Mixed Race 0.68% 0.05%
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander 0.00% 0.04%
White 94.74% 95.48%
Other 1.53% 0.00%
Percent free or reduced lunch
Under 25% 17.98% Unknown
26–50% 32.02%
51–75% 43.19%
76–100% 6.81%
Total 589 8,580

The first two steps involve clarifying the measure and generating items.
Based on the theoretical and empirical literature, an initial pool of items was
developed that included 10 items for each notion of CivID. For the format of
the item, the scale used five-point Likert-style items. After the initial items
16 Knowles

were developed, they were reviewed by five different social studies teachers in
a one-on-one manner. The teachers were given a summary of each construct
and then asked to rate each item on a three-point scale1 while verbally
explaining their thoughts. Next, the items were presented to reviewers who
have advanced knowledge of citizenship education and/or survey design. With
a specially designed survey through Qualtrics, the reviewers were asked to
drag and drop the items into one of three boxes measuring each notion of
CivID. The items were correctly grouped 82% of the time, and the splits were
88% for critical, 92% for conservative, and 67% for liberal. Following further
revisions, 50 preservice teachers completed the survey to explore issues of
reliability using Cronbach’s alpha and visual issues regarding distribution.
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Upon finalizing the scale, a sample of teachers were asked to respond on a

five-point scale how much they agreed or disagreed with the statements in
relation to the prompt, “How strongly do you agree or disagree that good
citizenship education primarily teaches….” To measure conservative CivID,
12 survey items were used. To measure liberal CivID, 10 survey items were
used. To measure teachers’ support for critical CivID, 10 survey items were
used. Initially, all 32 items measuring CivID were entered into an exploratory
factor analysis (EFA) model. Items that did not load on the three major latent
factors were removed. The EFA was then re-run with the remaining 28 items.
Factors that account for the largest share of the variance were determined
based on eigenvalues and a scree plot (Cattell, 1966). Factor analysis allowed
for summary variables to be calculated for each latent construct. These values
were used in the upcoming analysis. After the latent dimensions were identi-
fied, each of the initial items were grouped accordingly and displayed with
descriptive statistics for each item (see Appendix).
Instruction. As mentioned in the introduction, the items measuring tea-
chers’ self-reported instructional practices were adapted from the instrument
implemented through the large-scale study The Status of the Social Studies:
Views from the Field (Passe & Fitchett, 2013), which surveyed over 12,000
teachers. These items have received further analysis in other works (Fitchett &
VanFossen, 2013; Knowles & Theobald, 2013), which utilized EFA to demon-
strate distinct differences between teachers’ instructional emphasis and found
three factors, including collaborative, traditional, and weaker research instruc-
tional emphasis. Heafner and Fitchett (2015) found support for a two-factor
division through National Assessment of Educational Progress data when they
conducted factor analysis and found two factors related to multi-model
instruction and text-based instruction. With these studies in mind, the items
in this study were adapted somewhat to include a broad array of teaching
strategies in comparison to the aforementioned studies. Teachers were asked to
respond on a five-point scale ranging from never to daily or almost daily to the
prompt: “During social studies instruction, how often do your students engage
in the following?” Sixteen items were designed to measure teachers’
Connecting Teachers’ Ideology to Instructional Strategies 17

instructional preferences. In a similar manner as CivID, EFA was used to

assess the latent structure of these items and produce summary variables that
were extracted for further use. The resulting analysis found two factors, which
were titled Collaborative–Research based instruction and Teacher–Text based
instruction. These titles were applied based on the nature of the items within
the factors. The Collaborative–Research based instruction focused on partici-
pating in debates, student-led discussions, reading secondary sources (not
included in the textbook), and developing group projects. The Teacher–Text
instructional preferences included having students listen to teacher lectures,
complete worksheets independently, complete assignments from a textbook,
reading from the textbook, taking notes, and participating in teacher-led
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discussions (see Appendix).

School characteristics and teacher demographics. School characteristics
are explored in a variety of ways. Teachers were asked in what type of community
they taught by selecting urban, rural, or suburban. Dichotomous dummy variables
were made for each of these categories. School racial demography was identified
by having teachers self-select the percentage of non-White students attending
their school. For teacher demographics, we asked teachers their gender (coded;
0 = male, 1 = female), years teaching, and primary grade level taught.

Data Analysis

Analysis using STATA 14 systematically addressed the research questions

above. First, the analysis in Table 3 assessed teacher preference for various
instructional strategies by comparing the individual items with their mean level
across groupings identified via the factor analysis. The composite means were
calculated by summing the scores on individual items and dividing by the number
of variables within the factor to compare means across collaborative–research
based and teacher–text instruction. In addition, Cronbach’s alpha was included for
each factor to assess the reliability of the scales. This information is located in
Table 3. In addition, Table 4 provides mean scores across each of the CivID and
instruction subscales and teacher demographics, including years teaching, com-
munity type, racial makeup of school, gender, grade level, and percent free or
reduced lunch. Each of these scales were derived from exploratory factor analysis
(results in Appendix). Each of the scales were standardized with a mean of 50 and
standard deviation of 10. Statistically significant differences were identified using
an ANOVA for years teaching, community type, racial makeup of school, and
percent free or reduced lunch. In addition, a t-test identified statistically significant
differences within gender and grade level.
To test the relationship between CivID and teachers’ self-reported instruc-
tional preferences, Table 5 presents results from correlation analysis. The correla-
tions are between individual items assessing instruction and summary measures
of the CivID scales extracted through EFA. Subsequently, a structural regression
18 Knowles

Table 3. Item Statistics for Instructional Preferences

Mean SD

Collaborative–Research based instruction

Participate in cooperative learning groups 3.53 0.96
Read primary sources 3.51 0.91
Discuss controversial issues 3.45 0.93
Read secondary sources (not including the textbook) 3.21 0.91
Participate in student-led discussions 3.17 1.04
Participate in debates 2.60 0.96
Develop group projects 2.58 0.89
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Complete research projects independently 2.32 0.78

Participate in role-playing/simulations 2.31 0.88
Composite mean = 2.97
Cronbach’s alpha = 0.73
Teacher–Text based instruction
Participate in teacher-led discussions 3.89 0.86
Take notes 3.69 0.94
Listen to teacher lectures 3.47 1.03
Read from the textbook 3.01 1.18
Complete worksheets independently 2.89 0.98
Complete assignments from a textbook 2.60 1.07
Composite mean = 3.26
Cronbach’s alpha = 0.67

model allows for multivariate analysis while maintaining the variance within the
individual items. In contrast to ordinary least squares regression, a structural
regression model allows for the analysis of multiple dependent variables simulta-
neously while also accounting for the covariance between endogenous, exogen-
ous, and observed measures. Before building the structural regression model,
each latent construct was tested using confirmatory factor analysis, which
revealed suitable fit for further analysis.2 After the overall model was set up,
multiple covariate relationships between errors of the same latent construct were
added based on modification indices to improve the goodness of fit. Kline’s
(2011) one-step model provided the basis for the model put forth in Figure 1.
Including control variables within structural equation modeling is uncommon.
However, the teacher demographic variables in Table 2 were included in an earlier
model. The goodness of fit statistics were greatly diminished by the inclusion of
these measures, so they were omitted (results available upon request). Goodness
of fit measures in structural equation modeling typically fall into differing cate-
gories of absolute fit indices, relative fit indices, parsimonious fit indices, and
non-centrality-based indices (Maruyama, 1998; Tanaka, 1993). The different
types of fit presented assess differing aspects of the model. For example, the
Comparative Fit Index (CFI) is interpreted as an incremental index which pena-
lizes complexity. The standardized root mean square residual (Standardized
Connecting Teachers’ Ideology to Instructional Strategies 19

Table 4. Comparisons of Social Studies Teachers’ CivID and Instruction

CivID Instruction

Teacher– Collab.–
Conservative Liberal Critical Text Research

Years teaching
Under 5 years 47.67 n.s. 52.08 n.s. n.s.
6–10 years 48.63 n.s. 50.26 n.s. n.s.
11–15 years 50.50 n.s. 49.76 n.s. n.s.
16–20 years 51.07 n.s. 49.43 n.s. n.s.
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Over 20 years 50.57 n.s. 49.61 n.s. n.s.

Community type
Rural 52.41 48.68 47.74 48.54 52.33
Suburban 49.14 51.59 47.81 51.08 48.54
Urban 48.43 51.18 54.53 50.86 47.99
Racial makeup of school
Almost all White n.s. n.s. 49.31 47.88 n.s.
Mostly White with some n.s. n.s. 50.05 50.75 n.s.
About 50% White and n.s. n.s. 49.27 51.40 n.s.
50% non-White
Mostly non-White with n.s. n.s. 53.55 52.10 n.s.
some White
Almost all non-White n.s. n.s. 57.09 52.38 n.s.
Male 51.08 n.s. n.s. n.s. 51.33
Female 49.53 n.s. n.s. n.s. 48.95
Grade level
High school 51.01 n.s. n.s. 49.00 48.54
Middle school 49.47 n.s. n.s. 50.59 50.87
Percent free or reduced
Under 25% 46.74 n.s. 50.60 n.s. n.s.
26–50% 49.77 n.s. 49.99 n.s. n.s.
51–75% 51.44 n.s. 48.94 n.s. n.s.
76–100% 50.22 n.s. 55.30 n.s. n.s.

Note. Standardized variables displayed with a mean of 50 and a standard deviation of

10. All displayed data demonstrated a significant difference across levels of CivID or
instruction (ANOVA, p < .05; t-test, p < .05). n.s. = Not statistically significant.

RMR) and Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA) are both
absolute measures of fit but differ in how they are calculated. The Standardized
RMR benefits from not being largely influenced by sample size and is derived
from the fit of the obtained and implied covariance matrices and the maximum
20 Knowles

Table 5. Correlations Between Instruction and CivID


Conservative Liberal Critical

Collaborative–Research based instruction

Discuss controversial issues n.s. n.s. 0.16
Participate in role-playing/simulations n.s. 0.08 0.15
Read primary sources n.s. 0.08 0.15
Read secondary sources (not including the n.s. 0.08 0.14
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Develop group projects 0.09 0.12 0.12

Participate in debates n.s. n.s. 0.09
Participate in cooperative learning groups n.s. 0.13 0.09
Participate in student-led discussions n.s. n.s. 0.08
Complete research projects independently n.s. n.s. n.s.
Teacher–Text based instruction
Participate in teacher-led discussions 0.14 −0.11 n.s.
Read from the textbook 0.10 n.s. n.s.
Complete worksheets independently n.s. −0.11 n.s.
Complete assignments from a textbook n.s. −0.08 n.s.
Take notes n.s. n.s. n.s.
Listen to teacher lectures n.s. n.s. n.s.

Note. Only statistically significant correlations listed (p < .05). n.s. = Not statistically

likelihood minimization function, whereas RMSEA is an absolute goodness of fit

measure which works on differing assumptions, such as the non-centrality para-
meter tests, which use a variation of hypothesis testing. Typically referenced
cutoffs involve the comparative fit index, which is above .9, and the cutoffs of the
RMSEA. RMSEA output below .01 is excellent, .05 is good, and .08 is a
mediocre fit (MacCallum, Browne, & Sugawara, 1996). Also, the Standardized
RMR uses a cutoff of .08 for good fit (Hu & Bentler, 1999).
In addition, sample size requirements were considered necessary to account
for the complexity of the structural equation model (SEM) required. I considered
sample size requirements due to Westland’s (2010) review of 74 SEM studies,
which found that only 50% had the minimum sample size necessary to support
their conclusions. In short, SEM researchers have often used general rules, such as
5–10 cases per parameter (Nunnally, 1967) or a minimum sample size of 100 or
200 (Boomsma, 1982). The sample size allowed for such analysis if we followed
these commonly used guidelines. However, many researchers have called into
question the use of these cutoffs (Barrett, 2007; Kline, 2011; Loehlin, 2004; Wolf,
Harrington, Clark, & Miller, 2013). Instead, Wolf et al. (2013) recommended
conducting proactive Monte Carlo analysis to determine bias and statistical
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Figure 1. Structural Regression Model Predicting Instruction With CivID
22 Knowles

power. Such analysis involves simulations of a hypothesized model with relation-

ships among the variables specified based on the available research literature (e.g.,
Muthén, 2002; Muthén & Asparouhov, 2002; Paxton, Curran, Bollen, Kirby, &
Chen, 2001). To test for power, Monte Carlo analysis was conducted using Mplus
version 7, following the example of Wolf et al. (2013), which generated 10,000
simulations of a structural regression model capable of directly testing the
relationships in Figure 1, assuming factor loadings of .45, path coefficients of
.15, and a sample of 563 observations. Using the cutoffs identified by Muthén and
Muthén (2002), the results of the Monte Carlo analysis demonstrated a sufficient
sample size to conduct the necessary structural regression model.
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The findings below follow the order laid out in the data analysis section.
First, the analysis demonstrates teachers’ responses in regards to their prefer-
ences for instructional strategies and CivID. The rest of the analysis focuses on
the central research question of the study by comparing teachers’ reported
instructional preferences relating to teacher–text and collaborative–research
based methods and the three CivID scales.

What Are the Patterns of Instructional Practices and Ideological

Perspectives That Middle/High School Social Studies Teachers Self-

The analysis of individual items in Table 3 displays means measuring

teachers’ reported preferences for collaborative–research based and teacher–
text instruction. A higher mean indicates greater support. In general, the
composite means indicated that teachers generally are more supportive of
teacher–text instruction instead of collaborative–research based instruction.
The items with the highest mean score are participating in teacher-led discus-
sions and taking notes. The weakest items were grouped with collaborative–
research based instruction and include developing group projects, completing
research projects independently, and participating in role-playing/simulations.
The results of this table support previous research and scholarship indicating
that teachers tend to support teacher–text rather than collaborative–research
based instruction (Russell, 2010). While EFA identified the two latent traits,
the Cronbach’s alphas were quite weak with regard to teachers’ instructional
preferences. Therefore, the upcoming analysis considered these items indivi-
dually in addition to as a general scale.
The subsequent analysis explored the teachers’ CivID and instructional
preferences by teacher demographics. The composite measures extracted from
EFA within this table have been standardized with a mean of 50 and standard
deviation of 10 to allow for more direct comparisons. A higher score indicated
Connecting Teachers’ Ideology to Instructional Strategies 23

greater support for the corresponding CivID or instruction subscale. If the data
are presented, then there is at least one subgroup on the left-hand side that is
statistically significantly higher than another group. Analysis of variance and
t-tests were used to identify significant differences between some groups
across CivID. For example, more experienced teachers seemed to be suppor-
tive of conservative CivID, while newer teachers were more supportive of
critical CivID. Community type demonstrated significant differences across
both CivID and instruction. Rural teachers scored higher on conservative
CivID and teacher–text instruction. In contrast, suburban teachers scored
higher on liberal than rural teachers, but not significantly different from
urban teachers. Suburban teachers also scored highest on collaborative–
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research based instruction. Finally, urban teachers scored the highest on

critical CivID and the lowest on teacher–text instruction. The racial makeup
of schools identified statistically significant relationships with the more non-
White students, the higher the score on critical CivID and collaborative–
research based instruction. In addition, male teachers had higher conservative
CivID and teacher–text based instructional preferences than female teachers.
High school teachers scored higher on conservative CivID than middle school
teachers. Finally, the percentage of free and reduced lunch indicated higher
scores in both conservative and critical CivID.

Is There a Significant Correlation Between a Teacher’s Ideological

Positions and Their Emphasis on Particular Self-Reported Instructional

The data in Table 5 indicate the individual items assessing instruction and
their correlations with the CivID scale. Conservative CivID was found to have
a statistically significant relationship with teacher-led discussions and reading
from the textbook, which are related to teacher–text instruction. However,
conservative civic education did have a positive relationship with developing
group projects, a collaborative–research based instructional strategy. Liberal
CivID had positive correlations with several collaborative–research based
instruction strategies, including participating in role-playing/simulations, read-
ing primary sources, reading secondary sources, and cooperative learning
groups. However, liberal CivID demonstrated a negative relationship with
several items measuring teacher–text instruction, including teacher-led discus-
sions, worksheets, and textbook assignments. Finally, critical CivID had a
positive relationship with every collaborative–research based instruction item,
except for completing research projects independently. This analysis provides
evidence that CivID does have a relationship with instructional preferences.
The results in the preceding table provide useful analysis regarding the
relationships between CivID and instruction. However, they rely on individual
and summary variables. This approach eliminates variance of individual vari-
ables and fails to account for a multivariate relationship between
24 Knowles

collaborative–research based and teacher–text instruction as well as the CivID

scales. Instead, the structural regression model in Figure 1 allows for a direct
test of the theoretical model regarding instruction and ideology. The model
uses individual items to construct latent measures for each CivID and then
uses those latent constructs to simultaneously predict instruction preferences.
This method incorporates the variance between individual items, allowing the
researcher to account for the covariance between observed and latent variables
(shown with double arrows) and predict multiple endogenous variables while
producing goodness of fit measures.
The results in Figure 1 can be difficult to interpret. For clarity, the
coefficients for the direct paths between ideology and instruction are bolded.
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The non-significant paths were removed.3 The model demonstrated adequate

fit based on the RMSEA, CFI, and Standardized RMR. The results found
statistically significant relationships between self-reported instructional prefer-
ences and the CivID scales. The strongest identified relationship was a
negative association between liberal CivID and teacher–text instruction.
Subsequently, conservative CivID had a positive and statistically significant
relationship with teacher–text instruction. Finally, critical CivID had a positive
and significant relationship with collaborative–research based instruction. Of
the non-significant paths removed, the one nearest to significance was a
positive association between critical and teacher–text instruction, with a path
coefficient of .16 (p = .52). In sum, the structural regression model demon-
strated evidence of a relationship between teachers’ CivID and their reported
instructional preferences.


The results find support for the central hypothesis of the study that
teachers’ instructional preferences are related to their CivID. While certainly
not the only influence, teachers’ support for a particular CivID was a sig-
nificant predictor of the type of self-reported instruction, which bolsters the
conceptualizations put forth by scholars indicating that teachers’ instructional
practices are mitigated by their values (Apple, 2008; Bennett & Spalding,
1992; M. Evans, 2008; Gainous & Martens, 2016; Goodman & Adler, 1985;
Onosko, 1991; Ross, 2000). In other words, teachers with particular views of
social studies and citizenship education will likely implement instruction
consistent with those beliefs. The directions and strengths of these associations
have implications. For example, conservativism was the only CivID that
showed a positive relationship with teacher–text instruction. The findings
contrast with Schug’s (2003) claim that teachers prefer teacher-centered teach-
ing, only finding this to be the case with conservative-leaning teachers with
regard to teacher–text instruction. In contrast, teachers scoring high on liberal
CivID demonstrated a negative association with teacher–text instruction.
Connecting Teachers’ Ideology to Instructional Strategies 25

Indeed, this was the strongest relationship found among the variables of
interest in this study (see Figure 1). However, liberal CivID did have some
relationship, although inconsistent, with collaborative–research based instruc-
tion activities, such as developing group projects and participating in coop-
erative learning groups. Finally, high support for critical CivID had the
strongest relationship with collaborative–research based instruction, which
indicates that teachers attached to critical ideology were more likely to have
students participate in instructional strategies such as debates, role-playing,
and student-led discussions.
Additional findings suggest that the connections between CivID and
instructional preferences are related to contextual factors, such as community
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type, racial makeup of the school, gender, grade level, and school socio-
economic status (measured by percent free and reduced lunch). This finding
builds on Knowles and Theobald’s (2013) finding that students in general
education classes receive more traditional teaching strategies than their peers
in elective or Advanced Placement courses. These nuances raise questions
regarding broad statements of teachers’ reliance on textbooks and lecture.
Indeed, based on these results, a female teacher in a non-rural context may
often engage students in more collaborative–research based instruction instead
of textbooks and lecturing. Moreover, teachers in mostly non-White schools
were more likely to engage students in collaborative–research based strategies.
This study did find that, on average, teachers indicated more emphasis on
teacher–text instruction. However, the more nuanced analysis indicates that
any assertion of what social studies teachers do, or do not do, in regards to
instruction should include teacher identity and contextual considerations.
In addition, the findings of this study further demonstrate the nuances of
CivID and individual items assessing teachers’ instructional preferences. The
correlations revealed that conservative CivID was positively correlated with a
collaborative–research based instructional strategy: develop group projects.
While the structural regression model indicated significant support for tea-
cher–text strategies, the correlations only found connections in regards to
preferences for textbook reading and assignments. The individual items mea-
suring lectures, note-taking, and participating in teacher-led discussions were
not statistically significant in the correlations and demonstrated very weak
factor loadings within the structural regression model. Indeed, considering the
complex relationships between instructional preferences and CivID, along
with the weak Cronbach’s alpha among instruction in Table 3, future scholar-
ship should consider the use of individual items versus a composite scale
when testing connections between ideology and instruction.
These results have additional implications toward a central argument
made in social studies (e.g., Hess, 2009; Hess & McAvoy, 2015; Ho et al.,
2017) that classrooms should serve as political spaces in which students
engage in cross-cutting conversations over controversial topics. The analysis
here supports Apple’s (2008) claim that teachers’ ideological predisposition
26 Knowles

may prevent the implementation of authentic open classroom spaces necessary

for such discussions to take place. Teachers possess, perhaps unacknowledged,
ideological perspectives that likely contribute to the decisions they make in the
classroom on a daily basis. Levinson (2012) demonstrated profound divisions
and difficulties that teachers can have in creating avenues for controversial
issue discussion. Building on her central argument, educators should purpose-
fully implement such discussions that are not likely to happen naturally.
Alviar-Martin’s (2010) model could provide an example by having teachers
engage in a review of varying conceptions of citizenship, participate in
discussions about multiple civic identities that exist across varied commu-
nities, and deliberate pathways to promote a more just and equitable society. In
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sum, before teachers can be capable of taking seriously the political develop-
ment of their students, teachers must engage in deep self-reflection regarding
their ideological assumptions and other varying conceptions of citizenship in
order to promote a more authentic democratic citizenship education.


The findings from this study have important limitations. First, the survey items
cannot fully account for the diversity of views represented within the terms con-
servative, liberal, and critical. Each of these constructs themselves are multi-
dimensional and necessitate future study separately. However, the scales used
represent some important divisions that are relevant for social studies educators.
Future scholarship should seek to understand the complexities under each construct.
The self-reported nature of these data represents another limitation.
Research and scholarship on social studies teachers demonstrates discrepan-
cies between what teachers report and what teachers enact in the classroom
(M. Evans, 2006; Hess & Avery, 2008; Mhlauli & Muchado, 2013). There are
a number of areas that might influence a teacher’s response to both the
ideology and instruction items, including social desirability, perceptions of
the researcher, or frustration with the survey instrument.
The instructional practices listed do not represent every possible instruc-
tional strategy a teacher may employ. For example, the conceptualization lacks
consideration of technology, particularly social media, which may have a
strong association with civic engagement in youth. However, the approach
taken creates a meaningful assessment of common strategies reflected both in
the literature and in teachers’ experiences.
The sample of teachers comes from a single state, Missouri. Therefore, the
findings cannot be generalized to teachers across the country. While this is a
limitation, Missouri is a suitable location to conduct this type of study due to the
politically divisive nature of the state, with the cities and university towns consis-
tently trending more liberal, which contrast with more conservative rural areas. As a
result, ideological conflicts over education are well documented in Missouri
(Cornbleth & Waugh, 1995; Hawkman & Cuenca, 2016; Placier et al., 2002).
Connecting Teachers’ Ideology to Instructional Strategies 27

Finally, the relatively small sample size and limited response rate presents
another factor. One issue that appeared to limit the response rate was that several
teachers informed me that their school district had either a SPAM filter that
moved the email to a junk folder or a blocking feature that would not allow the
survey to open on the school’s server. In addition, Table 1 indicates that the
sample is somewhat different from the actual population of teachers in Missouri.
Therefore, future research should explore these items with more robust samples
to explore the theoretical connections related to teacher ideology.


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The analysis included within this work has yielded significant implications
for practicing teachers, teacher educators, and the field of social studies education
more generally. In general, this study demonstrates the importance of considering
teachers’ ideology to understand decision-making. The CivID scale used in this
study can be a useful tool to accomplish this task and should be utilized, adapted,
and reconsidered on an ongoing basis. In addition, the substantive findings of this
study can contribute to research using qualitative or mixed-method analysis.
Some potential areas of scholarship are identified below.
Future research should seek to provide additional insights into how
ideology manifests within classroom spaces and interactions between teachers
and students. Social studies scholars have pointed out an ideological bias
among curricula and standards (Camicia, 2009; Chappell, 2010; DeLeon,
2008; Shear et al., 2015). As a field, we need more work to understand how
teachers with contrasting, or congruent, ideological positions navigate biased
curricula with students and colleagues that may support or oppose their
perspective. For example, a teacher may identify with an exceptionalist per-
spective of American history and its founding and, therefore, highlight A
Patriot’s History of the United States (Lchweikart & Allen, 2014), instead of
its ideological opposite, Howard Zinn’s (2005) A People’s History of the
United States. The findings of this study suggest that the teachers’ values
and ideology may influence that decision and how they implement it. In
contrast, students within the same classroom may (or may not) include a
broad spectrum of ideological positions. Researchers could explore how
students of differing political ideologies react in such instances. The ideolo-
gical discrepancy could potentially lead such students to reject what is not
consistent with their beliefs. Related studies could also consider students who
experience, or are resistant to, an ideological shift during such a class. Finally,
future research could consider student-to-student interactions. What leads
some students to engage and disengage when they disagree? Do they avoid
certain topics within their conversation? Which students will openly dissent,
and which will silently reject their peers? The scale measuring teachers’ CivID
has the potential to contribute to research addressing these questions.
28 Knowles

Scholarship consistently demonstrates the dominance of conservative and

liberal notions of citizenship within public schools, which may contradict the
notions of teaching advocated by teacher educators (Anderson et al., 1997;
Castro, 2014; Patterson et al., 2012). Indeed, social studies scholarship often
advocates for notions of teaching that likely challenge the perspectives, values,
and ideological assumptions held by a great many teachers. The findings of this
study suggest that teachers’ ideology may mitigate their willingness to imple-
ment efforts by social studies scholars to improve instruction through efforts
such as the C3 Framework (National Council for the Social Studies, 2013) or
more critical approaches, such as Villegas’s (2007) social-justice pedagogy or
King and Chandler’s (2016) model of anti-racist vs. non-racist pedagogy.
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Similar to the analysis of the preceding paragraph, more research, scholarship,

and policy initiatives could consider methods of facilitating such complex and
difficult discussions with preservice educators across ideological divides.
Additional research could consider interactions between aspects of teacher
identity and decision-making. The findings of this study provided evidence that
teachers preferred teacher–text based methods. However, the support for teacher–
text instruction varied by contexts, such as community type, racial makeup of the
school, gender, teaching experience, and grade level. Across these contexts, there
were also differences among civic ideologies. The analysis within this study did
not address questions of intersections across these groups. Certainly, these inter-
actions warrant future research. However, the gender disparity demonstrating that
female teachers are more likely to support collaborative–research based instruc-
tion and shy away from teacher–text approaches remains an important area for
future scholarship. For example, do female teachers in rural areas enact more or
less collaborative-based instruction than their male colleagues in rural areas? Such
gender differences could be explored in relation to others within the same school,
which may be more ideologically polarized or homogenous, and how does that
affect the curriculum and instruction within the schools? To reiterate an important
point, any assertion of what teachers do, or do not do, in the classroom necessi-
tates nuanced analysis based on their ideology, identity, and context.
In conclusion, a teacher’s ideological orientation has a relationship with their
reported instructional preferences. However, this relationship creates an obvious
dilemma. Ideological bias is only viewed as positive when congruent with our
own ideological perspectives. If teacher educators tend to be liberal or critical,
they will be at odds with our more conservative students or communities.
Moreover, conservative-minded social studies teachers will likely be at odds
with the more liberal or critical students in their classrooms. As a result, future
scholarship and approaches to social studies teacher education should address the
ideological perspectives held by teachers and preservice teachers—particularly,
how teacher-educators can craft learning environments to incorporate often-
ignored discussions around the ideological divisions within our society. In
short, we have to acknowledge the previously unacknowledged assumptions
and biases that we all have.
Connecting Teachers’ Ideology to Instructional Strategies 29


I would like to express appreciation to Antonio Castro, Corinna Knowles,

and Steven Camicia for their contributions and reviews during the develop-
ment of this project.

Score: 1 = Problematic, 2 = Adequate, 3 = Superior.
Readers interested in these results can email the author.
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The model included paths from each CivID to both dimensions of
instruction. Non-significant paths were omitted from Figure 1 to aid in clarity.
The conservative to collaborative–research based path had a standardized
coefficient of .06 (p = .26), the liberal to collaborative–research based path
had a standardized coefficient of .09 (p = .29), and the critical to teacher–text
path had a standardized coefficient of .16 (p = .52).


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Please check the Appendix table “Dimensions of Teachers’ Civic

Education Ideology” carefully. It was provided in your original manuscript
as an image rather than as editable text, so it had to be manually keyed in as
text for this proof.

Dimensions of teachers’ civic education ideology (CivID)


How strongly do you agree or disagree that

good citizenship education primarily
Variable teaches… Conservative Liberal Critical

CR6 That a strong foreign policy should protect 0.649 — —

the United States’ position as a global
CR12 Government assistance discourages people 0.634 — —
from improving their lives
CR10 That the free market can solve most social 0.617 — —
CR7 The importance of honoring the history and 0.599 — —
heritage of the United States
CR8 That the United States is exceptional 0.592 — —
CR2 How the values of the founding fathers 0.587 — —
provided a strong foundation for this
(Continued )
40 Knowles


Dimensions of teachers’ civic education ideology (CivID)


How strongly do you agree or disagree that

good citizenship education primarily
Variable teaches… Conservative Liberal Critical

CR3 The importance of continuing long held 0.562 — —

CR11 Limiting the role of government enhances 0.551 — —
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the freedom of the people

CR9 That all people can be successful in society 0.540 — —
through hard work
CR1 Patriotism, loyalty, and civic duty 0.540 — —
LC6 The importance of coming up with your — 0.604 —
own personal opinion before voting
LC5 Students how to think, instead of what to — 0.602 —
LC3 Skills such as cooperation and deliberation — 0.577 —
with others
LC4 The importance of participating in a diverse — 0.538 —
LC1 Political tolerance and open-mindedness — 0.535 —
LC2 An understanding that the United States is a — 0.510 —
multicultural nation
LC7 That people can improve their lives by — 0.488 —
being involved in the democratic process
CC7 About practices of racism, sexism, and — — 0.782
class exploitation in everyday life
CC2 The presence of institutional racism in — — 0.744
modern society
CC8 Root causes of inequality in society — — 0.706
CC5 About the experiences and goals of — — 0.694
marginalized people in society
CC6 The nature of class privilege across — — 0.690
CC1 The existence of discrimination in everyday — — 0.688
life based on identity (such as gender,
class, nationality, race, or sexual
CC10 Causes of social inequalities within — — 0.671
communities, nations, and the world
CC3 Historical causes for modern inequalities — — 0.587
(Continued )
Connecting Teachers’ Ideology to Instructional Strategies 41


Dimensions of teachers’ civic education ideology (CivID)


How strongly do you agree or disagree that

good citizenship education primarily
Variable teaches… Conservative Liberal Critical

CC9 Social problems from both local and global — — 0.532

LC9 That government programs can reduce — — 0.490
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Explained Variance 29.00% 12.20% 58.70%

Note. Principal axis factor analysis with varimax rotation. Loadings smaller than .45
not displayed. N = 680.

Item Descriptives of CivID

Conservative CivID Mean SD

Patriotism, loyalty, and civic duty 4.25 0.79

The importance of honoring the history and heritage of the United States 4.23 0.77
How the values of the founding fathers provided a strong foundation for 4.19 0.78
this country
That all people can be successful in society through hard work 3.92 0.97
That the United States is exceptional 3.61 1.04
That a strong foreign policy should protect the United States’ position as a 3.57 0.92
global power
Limiting the role of government enhances the freedom of the people 3.45 1.03
The importance of continuing long held traditions 3.43 0.93
That the free market can solve most social problems 2.99 0.96
Government assistance discourages people from improving their lives 2.94 1.15
Composite mean = 3.66
Cronbach’s alpha = 0.84
Liberal CivID Mean SD
The importance of coming up with your own personal opinion before 4.51 0.66
Students how to think, instead of what to think 4.42 0.87
That people can improve their lives by being involved in the democratic 4.29 0.73
An understanding that the United States is a multicultural nation 4.28 0.74
Skills such as cooperation and deliberation with others 4.26 0.73
The importance of participating in a diverse society 4.26 0.70
(Continued )
42 Knowles


Item Descriptives of CivID

Conservative CivID Mean SD

Political tolerance and open-mindedness 4.13 0.83

Composite mean = 4.31
Cronbach’s alpha = 0.82
Critical CivID Mean SD
Social problems from both local and global perspectives 4.02 0.85
Historical causes for modern inequalities 3.94 0.84
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Causes of social inequalities within communities, nations, and the world 3.80 0.89
Root causes of inequality in society 3.74 0.94
The existence of discrimination in everyday life based on identity (such as 3.72 0.92
gender, class, nationality, race, or sexual orientation)
About practices of racism, sexism, and class exploitation in everyday life 3.61 0.99
About the experiences and goals of marginalized people in society 3.58 0.86
The nature of class privilege across generations 3.38 0.98
The presence of institutional racism in modern society 3.32 1.02
That government programs can reduce poverty 2.89 0.99
Composite mean = 3.6
Cronbach’s alpha = 0.89

Dimensions of Social Studies Instruction Dimensions

During social studies instruction, how often do Collaborative– Teacher–

Variable your students engage in the following? Research Text

IN14 Participate in debates 0.583 —

IN4 Participate in role-playing/simulations 0.569 —
IN10 Participate in student-led discussions 0.502 —
IN3 Read secondary sources (not including the 0.478 —
IN6 Develop group projects 0.475 —
IN2 Read primary sources 0.464 —
IN17 Discuss controversial issues 0.457 —
IN11 Participate in cooperative learning groups 0.427 —
IN13 Complete research projects independently 0.422 —
IN1 Listen to teacher lectures — 0.566
IN8 Complete worksheets independently — 0.428
IN5 Complete assignments from a textbook — 0.566
IN7 Read from the textbook — 0.492
IN16 Take notes — 0.450
IN9 Participate in teacher-led discussions — 0.451
Variance Explained 57.9% 42.0%
Principal axis factor analysis with orthogonal rotation,
N = 563