Document Type

Conference Presentation

Publication Date



The iCivics study will be of interest to those affiliated with educational gaming, multimedia production, technology integration or evaluation. The study and results described below will be covered in the session, as will the overall vision of Justice O’Connor and the iCivics group. A detailed PowerPoint presentation and handouts will be provided in addition to the opportunity to play one of the iCivics games and explore the website for those who bring laptops to the session.

iCivics and its products are the vision of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as a method of helping middle-school children learn about civics and civics participation in the United States. In addition to providing an engaging environment for students to learn about governmental processes through educational games, the ICivics instructional package includes lesson plans and teaching resources for teachers to use to supplement the learning process. The interactive iCivics website is attractive to both learners and instructors and offers multiple avenues for students to explore topics related to their own government. From games to webquests, learners can explore the fundamentals of their own role in democratic processes. Teachers can download lesson plans and activity units on a variety of civics topics.

The Balance of Power game is among the stable of games being offered by iCivics and it is designed to help students understand the process the three branches of government go through in order to make a law. Additionally, students learn how each branch is necessary to balance each other. Students can choose from multiple social issues and walk the issue through a town hall, a press conference, a congressional meeting and a presidential approval depending upon the branch of government they are exploring. The game emphasizes the need to balance the three branches and receive approval from all three before a bill can become a law. The pre-game lesson plan walks the students through creating a mock bill and the post-lesson plan reinforces the role that citizens play in the process of sponsoring a bill. The combined pre-game lesson, game play, and post-game lesson are planned to take four class days. The instructional unit includes handouts, overheads, a PowerPoint, and answer keys in addition to the lesson plan.

A formative evaluation of the Balance of Power game and Curriculum was conducted to determine: The extent to which the instructional unit as a whole meets its instructional goals; the extent to which the instructional unit engages the students and increases their interest in the subject matter; the extent to which the instructional program meets the needs of the users; the extent to which the instructional program is usable and marketable to schools and school districts. The data sources for the Balance of Power evaluation included: program participants (students); teachers; expert judgment of the evaluator. A mixed-method evaluation approach was used in the evaluation of the Balance of Power instructional unit: data was collected from these sources in the form of attitudinal surveys, pretest and posttest, Interview and observation checklists. A middle-school class and a high-school class in the Phoenix, Arizona, metropolitan area agreed to participate in the field test of the Balance of Power game. In order to measure the effectiveness of the program, attitudinal surveys of current program participants and teachers were utilized. A pretest and posttest were administered as part of the field-testing of the instructional program. The field test also allowed the evaluators to observe the use of the unit. The expert judgment of the evaluators was also used to determine the alignment of the unit objectives and the activities.

The instruction took place in a regular classroom, while the game play took place in a school computer lab. The students accessed the Balance of Power game through the iCivics website: The results of the pre- and posttests as well as the student and teacher attitudinal surveys indicate that the instructional unit as a whole is meeting its stated instructional goals. An increase in test score means was evident between the pretest and the second posttest, specifically with improvements in all areas, most significantly in the category dealing with information on all three branches of government. The student surveys also indicated that the students felt that they learned new information regarding how the three branches of government worked and the role citizen’s play in government processes. Results from the evaluation were used by iCivics to improve the game and curriculum offerings to this target demographic. Areas for perceived improvement were identified based on the data collected. Implications for future research were discussed.


IT Solutions

Conference Name

2011 Association for Educational Communications and Technology Convention

Conference Place

Jacksonville, FL