Teaching About the 2016 Elections - UW-Madison

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Teaching About the 2016 Elections

Preparing Students for Political Engagement

September 24, 2016

8:00 a.m. - ​4:30 p.m.

​Grainger Hall, UW-Madison campus

What is ​the Teaching About the 2016 Elections Conference?

Teaching about elections is one of the best opportunities educators have to prepare young people for political engagement. Yet, we know that teachers are often unsure about how to teach about electoral politics in a way that is engaging, respectful to all points of view, and draws upon the best and most current information. 

The Teaching About the 2016 Elections Conference is an exciting opportunity for K-12 teachers: 

  • to learn about important election related issues
  • to receive training in effective learning strategies
  • to be introduced to national civic education programs and their curricula

Who should attend?

K-12 public or private educators, preservice teachers, and social studies professors. 

What is the cost to attend?

Teacher​s: $35
UW-Madison teacher education students: $10 

​Registration includes breakfast, lunch, and access to electronic materials and high quality curriculum to use in your classroom. 

.6 CEUs are also available at an additional cost of $5. Please indicate during registration if you would like to earn CEUs for your participation.

Discounts may be available for schools/districts sending teams of educators. Contact Matthew Freid at freid@wisc.edu or (716) 553-2654 for inquiries about group discounts.

How do ​I register?

Registration ​is closed as we have reached maximum capacity for the conference.

Conference Program

Click the link below for a detailed schedule, breakout session descriptions, etc.

Teaching About the 2016 Elections Program

Conference Information

Click the link below for general conference information such as parking, meals, etc.

Teaching About the 2016 Elections Conference Information

Keynote Presenters

P. Levineheadshotcolor1-min (2)

Peter Levine

Peter Levine is the Associate Dean and Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs in Tufts University's Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life and Director of CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement). He has a secondary appointment as a research professor in the Tufts Philosophy Department. He has served on the boards or steering committees of AmericaSpeaks, Street Law Inc., the Newspaper Association of America Foundation, the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, Discovering Justice, the Kettering Foundation, the American Bar Association Committee’s for Public Education, the Paul J. Aicher Foundation, and the Deliberative Democracy Consortium.

Levine is the editor of "We are the Ones We have been Waiting for: The Promise of Civic Renewal in America", the author of eight other scholarly books on philosophy and politics, and a novel. 


Gloria Ladson-Billings

Gloria Ladson-Billings is the Kellner Family Professor of Urban Education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research examines the pedagogical practices of teachers who are successful with African American students. Her work has won numerous scholarly awards, including the H.I. Romnes faculty fellowship, the Spencer Post-doctoral Fellowship, and the Palmer O. Johnson Outstanding research award.

Ladson-Billings also investigates Critical Race Theory applications to education. The author of the critically acclaimed books, "The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children" and "Crossing Over to Canaan: The Journey of New Teachers in Diverse Classrooms," and has also written numerous journal articles and book chapters.


Diana E. Hess

Diana E. Hess is the Dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she also holds the Karen A. Falk Distinguished Chair of Education.  

Since 1997, she has been researching how teachers engage their students in discussions of highly controversial political and constitutional issues, and what impact this approach to civic education has on what young people learn. Her first book on this topic, "Controversy in the Classroom: The Democratic Power of Discussion" won the National Council for the Social Studies Exemplary Research Award in 2009. Her most recent book, "The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education," co-authored with Paula McAvoy, won the American Educational Research Association’s Outstanding Book Award in 2016. 


Bennett Singer ​

Bennett Singer (producer/director of Electoral Dysfunction) is an award-winning New York-based filmmaker/writer with more than 20 years of experience. His documentary credits include Eyes on the Prize II, the Emmy- and Peabody-winning PBS series on the history of the civil rights movement, and Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin (directed with Nancy Kates), which premiered at Sundance, was broadcast nationally on PBS, and won more than 25 international awards. Brother Outsider has been shown at the Kennedy Center, the United Nations, The British Museum, as well as at more than 500 campus and community screenings in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. Singer has taught at the high school and college levels and served for eight years as executive editor of TIME Magazine’s education program, where he created award-winning teaching materials for a variety of film and television projects, including The Laramie Project, Band of Brothers, and John Adams.


​David Deschamps

David Deschamps (producer/director of Electoral Dysfunction) first conceived the idea for a humorous documentary on America’s election system while serving as Senior Researcher for John Nichols’ book Jews for Buchanan, an irreverent look at the election of 2000. He co-directed four short videos on voting for The New York Times’ Op-Docs series and is the co-author of LGBTQ Stats, a compendium of myth-busting facts and figures on LGBTQ Americans (forthcoming from The New Press in 2017). Deschamps studied film scoring at Berklee College of Music and is currently collaborating with Bennett Singer to develop a multi-part television series on the history of same-sex love, from ancient times to the present.

What should I expect at the conference​?

Throughout the day, participants will make choices about which breakout sessions are most relevant to their teaching. All sessions are designed to be interactive and focused on issues related to the current election. There will be different types of sessions to choose from:

  1. Pedagogical strategies: These sessions will teach participants how to use particular discussion strategies or other interactive activities in the classroom. Some sessions will be designated as more appropriate for elementary teachers; others will focus on activities for middle and high school teachers. 

  2. Issue Forums: These sessions are designed to educate teachers about some of the most important issues facing the U.S. and Wisconsin. Issue Forums will be led by University of Wisconsin faculty with content expertise about a particular issue. These sessions will be structured to engage participants in discussions of controversial issues. 

  3. Featured Curricula: Some of the most well regarded civic education organizations from around the country will be leading sessions on how to use their curricula. Participants will learn about a variety of resources and teaching techniques.



8:15 a.m.-8:45 a.m.  Registration and breakfast

8:45 a.m.-9:00 a.m.  Welcome

9:00 a.m.-9:45 a.m.  Keynote Panel: What should young people ​know about the elections and why is                                                                                  it important?

The panel will be led by: 

  • Peter Levine, Associate Dean for Research and Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Tufts University
  • Gloria Ladson-Billings, Kellner Family Professor of Urban Education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction​, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Diana Hess, Dean, School of Education​, University of Wisconsin-Madison

10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m. Breakout session #1

11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Breakout session #2

12:15 p.m.-1:00 p.m. Lunch

1:05 p.m.-2:00 p.m. Viewing of Electoral Dysfunction, followed by a short discussion with two of the film’s creators, Bennett Singer and David Deschamps. All conference attendees will receive a copy of the film, which can also be downloaded along with the curriculum guide, at no charge.

Bennett and Deschamps will also be leading a breakout session on classroom activities that extend student learning about the issues raised in the film. 

2:15 p.m.-3:15 p.m. Breakout session #3

3:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Breakout session #4

Breakout Session Presenters

  • icivics - a web-based education project designed to teach students civics and inspire them to be active participants in U.S. democracy. icivics will introduce “Win the White House”, a leveled game for elementary, middle, or high school students to manage their very own presidential campaign.

  • Mikva Challenge – is a nonpartisan organization that challenges students to be active participants in the political process. Mikva will present Project Soapbox, a speech competition program that helps teens develop communication skills - such as persuasive writing, issue research, and delivery - that are critical to a young person’s ability to ‘get on a soapbox’ and become an advocate for community issues. 

  • Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago strengthens American democracy by providing elementary and secondary students with hands on learning about the Constitution to prepare them for informed civic engagement. This nonprofit and nonpartisan organization will show all teachers they can facilitate a Structured Academic Controversy (SAC) with current election issues.

  • Close Up Foundation - partners with educators to help young people develop the skills and attitudes to become informed and engaged citizens. Their sessions for middle school and high school teachers will focus on how to teach controversial issues.

  • Katy Swalwell, professor of education at Iowa State University and author of the book, Creating Activist Allies.

  • Paula McAvoy, program director for the Center for Ethics and Education and co-author (with Diana Hess) of The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education.

  • David Canon, professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at UW-Madison, will discuss polarization in American politics.  He will address these questions:

    How and when did the nation become so polarized?
    What is redistricting, how is it being used, and how has it affected political polarization? 
    How is redistricting likely to affect this election cycle?
    What are some important policy issues/reforms related to polarization that would be important for young people to learn about?  

    Join Professor Canon for a stimulating discussion on these important topics.

Is lodging available?

Yes. A limited number of rooms are available at the Lowell Center starting at $114 per night.

Rooms can be reserved by calling 608-256-2621 and providing the croup code: TEACHELC


Contact Matthew Freid at freid@wisc.edu or (716) 553-2654.

This conference is funded by the generosity of School of Education graduate Mary Hopkins Gibb and her husband and the Gibb Democracy Education Fund.


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