Frequently Asked Question
The Choices for the 21st Century Education Program is a national education initiative based at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies. The program develops teaching resources on historical and current international issues, provides professional development for classroom teachers, and sponsors programs that engage students beyond the classroom.
What is your mission?
The Choices Program seeks to empower young people with the skills, habits, and knowledge necessary to be engaged citizens who are capable of addressing international issues with thoughtful public discourse and informed decision making.
What kind of curricular resources do you develop?
Choices develops curriculum units and online resources for use at the secondary level. Choices teaching resources are designed to make complex current ahd historical international issues understandable and meaningful for students. These resources include:
How do Choices materials and approach fit in my curriculum?
Teachers integrate Choices curricular resources into a range of courses including U.S. history, world history, global studies, and government. Materials include extensive background readings, lesson plans, and a role-play or simulation exercise that encourages students to apply their knowledge in an authentic setting. Curriculum materials incorporate the latest scholarship to make connections between historical events and contemporary international issues.
How does the Choices Program engage students in historical content?
Choices curricula are designed to make complex international issues understandable and meaningful for students. Topics framed around historical turning points challenge students to trace the results of decisions made in the past and consider the impact on our lives today. Topics framed around a current dilemma, help students examine the history that has led to this moment and consider a balanced range of perspectives on the issue.
Are Choices materials interdisciplinary?
Yes. Choices curriculum materials are developed by classroom teachers in collaboration with scholars from a variety of disciplines including history, literature, art, anthropology, ethics, geography, environmental science, and social and political philosophy. Lesson plans incorporate elements of all of these disciplines.
Does the Choices Program have a point of view?
No. The Choices Program takes its commitment to non-partisanship very seriously. In the world of public secondary education students need to experience an environment in which there is room for consideration of a range of perspectives. The Choices Program is committed to providing opportunities for students to weigh all sides of an issue and listen to the views of others before coming to their own decisions.
Does the Choices Program address state standards?
Yes. The resources and pedagogical approach of the Choices Program fit in well with the need of classroom teachers to address state standards. Lesson plans emphasize higher order thinking skills. For more details visit Alignment with National and State Standards.
Does the Choices Program offer professional development?
The Choices Program offers a wide range of professional development. Professional development programs include summer institutes, full-day programs, workshops at professional conferences, and in-service programs. Check the Choices Program calendar for a full listing of programs this year.
Does Choices offer programs to engage students beyond the classroom?
The Capitol Forum on America's Future is a civic education initiative that engages high school students in deliberation on current international issues within their social studies classroom and beyond the classroom at their state capitol. The content of the Capitol Forum grows out of the curriculum work of the Choices Program.
Choices materials seem sophisticated. Are they designed only for high-level students?
No. Teachers of students at all levels—from middle school to AP—have used Choices materials successfully. Many teachers make adjustments to the materials for their students. Each unit includes suggestions to help teachers adjust the materials for students of differing abilities. Lesson plans incorporate skills and activities for a variety of learning styles.
How does Choices handle controversial issues responsibly in the classroom?
History is full of controversy. The Choices Program engages students in the controversy of an issue in order to draw them into a deeper understanding of the causes and consequences of decisions. Students using Choices discover that history was not inevitable; it was made by real people facing difficult and often controversial choices.
What does research tell us about the Choices approach to learning?
The Choices Program has been involved in two formal research efforts. FIve years into its work in this field, a national evaluation of the Choices Program's resources and approach demonstrated that there is a statistically significant difference in students' ability to understand multiple perspectives on topics studied, and to apply these skills to additional topics, when the students are introduced to the Choices methodology in place of a read-and-discuss format. Further, the research demonstrated that students' acquisition of content knowledge is improved (with the same time allotted to the subject) using the Choices methodology. As a result of this evaluation, the Choices Program was validated by the Program Effectiveness Panel of the U.S. Department of Education.
Currently, an independent research team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is investigating classroom deliberation on public policy as a methodology to increase civic engagement. The Choices Program is a centerpiece of this research. This research is funded in part by Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE), based at the School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland.
How did the Choices Program get started?
The Choices methodology has its history in research begun in 1982 by Brown University's Center for Foreign Policy Development in collaboration with the Public Agenda Foundation. The methodology was used in 1985-1988 as a research tool to understand public thinking on U.S.-Soviet relations. This methodology has been adapted by the Choices Program for use in secondary education.