Skip to Main Content

Explore BRI's Design Framework

Our Educating for Self-Governance framework ties our principles and virtues to the best pedagogical practices for civics and history education by providing opportunities for students to use and practice this body of knowledge and skills as active and thoughtful citizens in their local and national communities. 

Framework Overview

The Bill of Rights Institute (BRI), teaches civics. Our resources are grounded upon founding principles and civic virtues. These ideals and habits shape the American understanding of self-government and the habits required to maintain a healthy civil society. Studying these principles and habits equips students and teachers to live the ideals of a free and just society. BRI seeks to build knowledge while providing students with opportunities to practice the skills associated with democratic processes, including deliberation, collective decision-making, civil discourse, and dealing with differences.    

Our design framework incorporates the founding principles and civic virtues into our learning design. This ensures BRI resources cover essential civic topics with congruent pedagogical approaches, developing self-governed individuals capable of informed engagement in civic life.  

Download PDF Version

The principles, virtues, and pedagogical framework outlined here guides BRI’s resource and program design by providing a common language for and expectations of what a BRI resources provide. In doing so, it outlines what an education in self-governance is in substance and in practice.

Download PDF Version

Disciplinary Literacy  

Teachers skilled in disciplinary literacy support students in engaging with texts and sources as a historian or political scientist might, including sourcing, close reading, corroboration of sources, and contextualizing sources. Engaging in disciplinary literacy is a necessary building block to further development in analytic reasoning, class dialogue, and inquiry-based approaches, all necessary skills for cultivating an informed citizenry.  

Reasoning Skills  

Reasoning skills help students break down complex information and develop questions that guide their exploration of content. Students with strong analytical and critical thinking skills can assess valid arguments, critique those arguments, and evaluate the provided evidence. These higher-order thinking skills allow students to participate in class dialogue inquiry-based activities more fully and practice self-governance habits.  Strong reasoning skills help students engage in civil discourse and life.   

Dialogical/Collaborative Learning 

The dialogic exchange between teachers and students allows students to explore their understandings and construct knowledge. The teacher, as the facilitator, encourages students to think deeply and justify their responses, and build on others’ ideas. This develops reasoning and communicative skills. Collaborative learning, in turn, emphasizes the interactions and dialogue between groups of students.  Engagement in dialogic and collaborative learning exposures students to diverse perspectives and understandings. The ability to form cogent thoughts orally, share and discuss ideas, engage different perspectives, and successfully work cooperatively are essential skills in self-governance.  

Inquiry Skills 

An inquiry approach emphasizes questions, supporting claims, and student involvement in learning to move the history and civics classroom beyond memorizing names and dates. These methods help students express themselves and their knowledge in preparation for civic life. Inquiry learning encourages students to actively construct their knowledge in a meaningful and purposeful context. Central to inquiry-, project-, and problem-based learning are relevant, complex, and provocative questions. Students practice the literacy, thinking, and collaborative skills essential to a history or civics class, civic life, and democratic decision-making by engaging in real-world issues and problems, both historic and contemporary. 

Culturally Responsive Teaching Practices  

Teachers practice cultural responsiveness by connecting the curriculum to students’ daily lives and cultural backgrounds. Culturally responsive classrooms address local histories and issues and promote respect for student differences. Best practices and competencies in culturally responsive teaching typically ask teachers to reflect on their cultural lens, recognize and act on bias in the system, and communicate in linguistically and culturally responsive ways.  BRI’s framework acknowledges these aspects but focuses on incorporating specific tenets in which our curriculum can best support teachers in all school settings.  Our focus on bringing real-world issues into the classroom, respecting student diversity and drawing on this diversity in developing curriculum and instructional plans, and modeling high expectations are essential in supporting our principle. These overlap with critical social and emotional learning competencies, including self-awareness, social awareness, and relationship skills. These allow students to successfully develop the skills to interact with others in civic spaces.   

Bill of Rights Institute Educator Resources

Full Library