In the Summer of 2015 I facilitated a two week workshop with 8 high school social studies teachers on performance based assessments (PBA). This curriculum project provided the opportunity, and context, to formally introduce the C3 Framework and IDM to Fairfax County Public Schools. The team was comprised of 8 teachers who represented the four core courses of Virginia’s Social Studies Curriculum – World History to 1500, World History 1500 – Present, VA/US History, and VA/US Government.

As the state of Virginia moves towards the increased use of Project-Based Assessment (PBA), instructional and assessment options need to be made available for teacher consideration and use. Part of my team’s outcomes included the development of eight C3 Inquiry lessons each lasting 2-3 class periods. The teachers are then using the lesson they created during the 15-16 School Year. This action was essential to the expansion of the participants’ repertoire.

During the design process it became evident that Dimension 4 of the C3 Framework – “Taking Informed Action” – posed some challenges in conceptualization, design, scope, and consequently, implementation. (As a note, the equivalent aspect promoted in PBA models requires assessments to be performed in an “authentic context or setting). Initially, our options for Dimension 4 were limited to the traditional task of requiring students to write a letter to an elected official at the local, state, or national level.

We all agreed that this would get old (meaning redundant and boring) quickly. Additionally, this type of letter writing activity was framing Dimension 4 in a 20th century practice and as civil complaining. Surely there had to be better and more diverse options for students.

In order to facilitate the understanding of Dimension 4, and to capture the potential and possibilities of the most dynamic part of the C3 framework, I developed an IDM inspired inquiry approach to conceptualizing “informed action.” I had the opportunity to present this approach at NCSS during the C3 Foundry pre-conference clinic.

So, to begin, the Compelling Question for this inquiry is:

What types of informed action can students engage in besides writing a letter to elected officials?

What you will find below is a 4 step process that uses supporting questions, diagrams, and teacher generated questions to conceptualize informed action. This approach results in 45 scenarios for teachers to consider utilizing with their students. These 45 scenarios do not specify the product for students to produce (i.e. letter, infographic, website, panel discussion etc.). That decision is to be made by teachers.

Supporting Question 1: What guidance do the C3 Framework and IDM provide for designing informed action activities?

Diagram 1: Dimension 4 – Informed Action


Commentary: I created this diagram for the team to reinforce the C3’s vision for informed action. But, as a model for their future classes, teachers generated additional questions that pushed the investigation of the compelling question further.

Teacher Generated Questions

  • What will students actually do in class?
  • Are the informed action and summative assessment the same thing?
  • Is the informed action an optional step?


Supporting Question 2: Who is involved with informed action activities, and where?

Diagram 2: Informed Action in 3 Easy Pieces


Commentary: Diagram two was motivated by practicality. Informed action can be conceived as an individual exercise (green) or as a collective (group, class, etc.) exercise (purple and blue). Additionally, student products, especially when done collectively, should be done in an authentic context. I call this context “The Public Sphere.” Teachers should clearly define and design the context in which student work. The design of the context is grouped as either, “Going Out” – meaning student work will be sent, displayed, published, happen somewhere beyond the teacher’s desk for public consumptions, or as “Bringing In” – meaning that the teacher invites viewers in to engage with student work. There can also be elements of both “Going Out” and “Bringing In.”


Supporting Question 3: What is meant by “public sphere”?

Diagram 3: The Public Sphere: An Authentic Context


Commentary: Visualizing the concept of the “Public Sphere” was important for the teams to rethink how student work can be accessed and consumed. This continuum reinforces the heart of the matter; student work should go beyond jus the teacher’s eyes for feedback, interaction, and use. Similar to section 1 above, this diagram yielded additional questions.

Teacher Generated Questions

  • How long should these take?
  • Does technology have to be used?
  • Who develops rubrics?
  • What permission do I need for sharing student work? 


Supporting Question 4: What are specific models of informed action that also meet the demands of the C3 Framework?


Diagram 4: An Informed Action Matrix

Commentary: Diagram 4 synthesizes the C3’s vision for informed action (arrow on bottom of visual), the context of diagram 2 (middle of visual and bullets), and format students work can take (blue arrows on the left). The 15 bullets, which are expressions of “Act, Understand, Assess, multiplied by the 3 formats yield 45 potential formats for informed action.   The specifics for student deliverables are where teacher’s skillsets and expertise come to play.


Since the summer project, one teacher has implemented her C3 inquiry. Her results were indeed favorable and the inquiry provides an opportunity to demonstrate how the matrix can be used for designing student informed action products.


For her inquiry, students created infographics that were displayed in her school for public consumption and engaged in a twitter chat.

Using the “informed Action Matrix” we can map her design her dimension 4 activity.