The Initial Implementation Patterns of the C3 Framework in Maryland School Districts

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This qualitative study examined the initial implementation patterns of the C3 Framework in Maryland school districts. The National Council for the Social Studies published the C3 Framework as a guide for state departments of education to revise social studies standards. This study sought to determine how district social studies leaders viewed the C3 Framework, how the district social studies leaders translated the C3 Framework in their districts, and why they chose to implement the C3 Framework as they did. The primary data sources were interviews and documents; the data were analyzed using constant comparative analysis to identify overarching attitudes toward the C3 Framework and implementation patterns. Policy implementation research specifically related to cognitive theory and capacity was used to help explain the implementation process. This study found that beliefs, financial and human resources, and time were the main factors influencing implementation. The study also found that how districts approach and support reform implementation for social studies might be different from how districts previously approached and supported new standards and curriculum in other content areas.

In this study, all district social studies leaders focused primarily on disciplinary literacy components of the C3 Framework, specifically those related to history. District social studies leaders focused on document-based activities, student projects, and writing to source but few addressed the Inquiry Arc in a way that challenged or altered expected approaches to teaching and learning social studies. Many used the C3 Framework as leverage to justify the continued work and focus on historical thinking and other disciplinary literacy work in their districts. Most district social studies leaders used inquiry and disciplinary literacy as synonyms; the pattern suggests that further work to help educators distinguish between these related approaches to learning is necessary to help support the use of inquiry in the social studies. As more states use the C3 Framework in state standards, this study might help states and districts guide how they approach its implementation.