CCT Professor Diana Owen's Research on Project Citizen with Georgetown’s Civic Education Research Lab

Middle school students take part in Project Citizen to address issues in their community.

Research: The effectiveness of Project Citizen in improving youth engagement in and knowledge of government and the public policy process

Sponsor: U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Studies

Professor: Dr. Diana Owen

Dr. Diana Owen is the principal investigator for a research project studying the effectiveness of Project Citizen, a curricular program of the Center for Civic Education that empowers young people at the middle school, high school, and university levels with knowledge and skills for grassroots participation.  Funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Studies, the study will examine the effectiveness of the program at the secondary school level in improving young people’s knowledge of government and the public policy process, developing civic skills necessary to engage effectively in political life and community affairs, and acquiring civic dispositions, including political efficacy and a sense of civic duty. Through the program, students learn how to monitor and influence public policy. Entire classes work cooperatively to identify a public policy problem in their community, research the problem, evaluate alternative policy solutions, develop their own public policy proposal, and create a political action plan to encourage local or state authorities to adopt their proposed policy. The research will be conducted by the Civic Education Research Lab at Georgetown University that is directed by Dr. Owen.

The research enrolls teachers of civics, social studies, and the American government and their students from across the country.  There is an emphasis on outreach to teachers who service high-need and at-risk students who might especially benefit from the Project Citizen program.  The study employs a randomized control trial (RCT) where the program participants are compared to a random sample of civics teachers and their students on a range of outcomes.  The RCT is supplemented by interviews with the participants and observational techniques.

The study was able to proceed as scheduled this summer with modifications necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The professional development program to prepare teachers to instruct the Project Citizen program, which was designed as an in-person summer institute to take place at five sites around the country, was held virtually.  Many student participants started their fall classes online, and teachers have had to adapt the Project Citizen program to the virtual environment.  The challenges of conducting the professional development program and implementing the curriculum intervention online will be incorporated into the study with the intention of identifying best practices and pitfalls associated with online instruction of a project-based civics program. 

To read more about the program, visit