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Foundations of American History: Minority Representation in K-12 Social Studies Education


Description of research project:

This project studies the ways in which minority groups are represented and included within narratives of U.S. history and how that representation affects ideas of the nation, especially who is seen as playing an active role in “creating America.” The main data sources will be K-12 history textbooks and state social studies curriculum guidelines. Analysis will focus on the representation (or lack thereof) of numerous historically marginalized groups, including those based on race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality, within these sources. The project will consider regional variation, through a comparison of curriculum guidelines and textbook usage across states, and change over time, through a comparison of old and new history textbooks.

Description of work that will be assigned to research assistants (i.e. transcription, coding, preliminary analysis of data, etc.):

The primary role of research assistants will be to help develop a codebook for all 50 states’ K-12 social studies standards and curriculum guidelines. As an RA, students will work together and with me to identify potential themes and patterns within these guidelines, playing an integral role in creating drafts of a codebook that we will test for intercoder reliability. RAs will also assist in the coding and initial analysis of these social studies standards by region. This activity will provide students with experience in both qualitative and basic quantitative analysis.

If there is time and interest, RAs will also develop their own independent research skills by contributing to the project’s literature review. With guidance from me, students will be encouraged to explore in more depth the area of this project that most interests them, which could include literature on minority representation in education, the relationship between culture and history education, the politics of inclusion, or ideas of the nation. Students will then be asked to synthesize what they have read and connect it back to the present project. This process will provide students with practice in locating and analyzing sources.


Supervising Faculty Member: Robert Jansen

Graduate Student: Kimberly Hess

Contact information: Kimberly Hess -

Average hours of work per week: 6-12

Range of credit hours students can earn: 2-4

Number of positions available: 3