Last fall the TPS Eastern Region program offered an online Professional Development Course for teachers, librarians, and educators from museums and nonprofit organizations, Designing C3 Inquiries with Library of Congress Political Cartoons. We have been teaching similar PD courses with a different content focus since 2011.  This year yielded the best ever participant inquiries and we want to share our recipe for success with you.  The ingredients that helped make this class so exceptional were: A focus on one Library of Congress primary source genre: Political Cartoons, Facilitator-Created Inquiry Models, Participant Team Collaboration, C3 IDM worksheets and Primary Source Analysis Tools in a shared Google Doc format, In-Depth Facilitator Feedback and an opportunity to publish these outstanding inquiries on the Waynesburg TPS website, in the TPS Teachers Network and on


Political Cartoons

We selected political cartoons as the primary source genre because there is such an abundance of political cartoons on a large variety of topics digitized at Most of these cartoons were created before 1923.  However, cartoons created after 1923 and even as recent as 2011 can be found in high resolution in numerous Exhibits at  We saw this as an opportunity to expand our participants’ searching skills to locate many more cartoons from the 20th and 21st centuries.  In addition, the Exhibits and Primary Source sets that include political cartoons have been curated by some of the best archivists in the country.  Teachers can find context and related sources to support their classroom inquiries if they select political cartoons as primary sources for their inquiries.

Political Cartoons are also ideal for the “Taking Informed Action” conclusion of the C3 Inquiry Arc. The Inquiry Design Model (IDM) puts forward an approach to social studies teaching and learning that places students’ work with primary sources at the center of the learning experience. IDM recognizes the value of asking and answering questions to initiate and improve students’ capacities as citizens. Inquiries developed using IDM are energized by disciplinary primary sources, such as the political cartoons  available at the Library of Congress. Most importantly, the IDM approach features taking informed action as the touchstone of inquiry. When taking informed action, students use what they have learned in the inquiry as they participate in civic activities (Levinson, & Levine, 2013).


Facilitator-Created Inquiry Models

The four facilitators for this course are long distance colleagues working from N.C, VA, and PA.  We have found that collaborating online not only enhances our work but generates new ideas and energy for Social Studies education.  Each one of us took the lead in creating one inquiry that used a Library of Congress political cartoon and followed the C3 inquiry arc from Compelling Question to Taking Informed Action.  All four model inquiries linked below are products of our team collaboration.  We felt very strongly that we should each be able to do this ourselves if we wanted to teach other educators how to do it.  The cycle of learning that we have alway used in our PD classes is “Explain – Demonstrate – Participate”. We first explained how the political cartoons could be found at and how these cartoons could be the featured primary sources in a c3 Inquiry. Then we shared our inquiry models before sending the participants off to search for political cartoons for their own inquiries.

John Lee, Is Peace Possible in the Middle East?

Ann Canning,  Was Jane Addams A Wonder Woman In History?

David Hicks, Was President Theodore Roosevelt’s invitation to Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House a good idea?

Greg Giardina, Was the Cherokee Removal Fair?


Participant Team Collaboration

Because collaboration was an integral part of our own inquiry design process, we wanted to give our participants time and support for their own collaboration.  Our goal for Week I was to establish a collaborative learning environment.  

Participants were first  asked to introduce themselves to the class by posting a brief professional bio on a Padlet web page.  We chose this medium to save class time and preserve a record that both facilitators and participants could reference during future sessions.  Introduction Padlet Page  (10 min)

After a brief demo with tips for browsing the Library of Congress Teachers Page, Chronicling America, Primary Source Sets and online Exhibits, we next sent participants off to browse on their own to see what topics they were interested in that actually had digitized political cartoons at  Then they brainstormed some possible topics for an inquiry and recorded a list on the group Google Brainstorm Doc. (20 min)

Search strategies were presented with specific tips for using the filters on the Library of Congress Home Page as well as the filters inside Prints and Photographs and Historic Newspapers. A narrow search strategy using Advanced Google was also included.  Participants were then given time to search for political cartoons and record the titles and links on individual Bibliographic Organizer Worksheets. (30 min)

After the class ended, facilitators typed in detailed feedback about the topics and sources on the group worksheet giving suggestions for further investigation during weeks 2-4.

The brainstorm google doc for recording topics and primary sources was extremely useful in selecting team members for the next step in our journey. By looking at the topics of interest and the primary sources they found, we came up with 7 teams of 2-3 participants and 1 person who asked to work alone.  The 8 topics were all connected to existing curriculum and had political cartoons at The topics were: Civil Rights, WWI (2 teams), WWII, Child Labor, Imperialism, Immigration, and Political Parties. We were thrilled with the diversity and the relevancy of these topics. Because these topics came were curriculum based and participant selected rather than assigned, we knew we had the foundation for excellent inquiry designs.

Starting with Week II of our class, we used Break Out Rooms for small group/team discussions and the Google Docs for collaborative decision making.  During these Break Out sessions, the four facilitators moved in and out of the 8 rooms to monitor and give feedback.  


Primary Source Analysis Tools in a Shared Google Doc Format

Featured Primary Sources are a key component in the IDM Blueprint.  In addition to selecting primary sources that will provide  the evidence to answer a compelling question, teachers need to come up with a formative task for each supporting question and a summative task at the end of the inquiry that answers the compelling question. Most summative tasks are arguments supported by claims.  These arguments may be written or presented in a visual or oral format but they must be supported by evidence. There are a variety of Primary source analysis tools that work well as a formative task in a C3 inquiry.  We suggested the three models listed below and created Google Doc versions for team collaboration.

Library of Congress Analysis Tool for Political Cartoons

Project Zero Circle of Viewpoints

SCIM-C Historical Interpretation


C3 IDM worksheets in a shared Google Doc format

The C3 team developed a flowchart to illustrate the path through Inquiry Design.  We used this flowchart to present an overview of the IDM then provided a Path to Inquiry Design (13 Steps to Inquiry) worksheet for every team to use during Weeks 3-5 of our class.  You can browse through these team worksheets and see the quality of team collaboration by following the links on this Google Doc.  These 13 Steps were invaluable to supporting our participants through the process of writing their own IDM.

The notes made on the Path to Inquiry Design team worksheets became the draft for the IDM Blueprints.  These Blueprints are one page summaries of a C3 Inquiry that include a Compelling Question, Supporting Questions, Featured Primary Sources, Formative Tasks, A Summative Task, and a Taking Informed Action plan.  The IDM Blueprint At A Glance created by the C3 Team was used to explain the Blueprint. Then each team was given an IDM Blueprint template to record their team decisions about the different components of the inquiry. These Google docs were used for Peer Review and facilitator feedback. Teams had two weeks after the class ended to edit their inquiries. Five teams submitted final IDM Blueprints:


Published IDMs

The C3 Teachers website includes an IDM Generator.  This is an online design program that teachers can use to turn their IDM Blueprints into professional looking pdf documents with printable primary sources.  The Generator is also a database of teacher generated inquiries in the public domain. After our online class was over we used the IDM Generator to create the inquiries listed below that have now been published on the Waynesburg TPS website.  In the very near future, they will also be published in the generator at  We list them here to illustrate the progress made in our online class from planning to Blueprint to the IDM Generator.