How iCivics got to be Successful… (the 4Ps of Success)

November 07, 2016


Sometimes, I run into people who have not heard about iCivics. I tell them that about half of middle school social studies teachers in the U.S. use us.  They are generally impressed with our reach.  Frankly, when I took over as Executive Director 2 years ago, I was impressed myself.  

Here’s what’s more impressive, there was no marketing staff when I joined.  Not one.  

Which begs the question, how did iCivics do it?  How did we gain such reach without targeted marketing?  

The answer is we didn't. It was "You", our community of educators that did it.  

After interviewing the founders of iCivics, including Justice O’Connor, it is clear that they hoped that teachers would find iCivics’ games and materials compelling. Yet, at the same time, the team did not start with a detailed plan about how to make that happen.  It was a discovery process.  Justice O’Connor was tireless in her devotion to iCivics, and she and the team tried many things. Looking back, I’ve distilled the 4Ps of success:


1) Purposefulness: Set clear learning objectives

Our materials are all built from the educational standards and meet the standards fully.  We very carefully address learning standards in their entirety within the time constraints of the class period.  iCivics encourages purposeful instruction through the standards, helping teachers accomplish their instructional goals more easily.  

2) Practical: Make it usable

iCivics curriculum designers spent time in the classroom. They understand that great lesson plans are not academic exercises but a detailed explanation as to how a great teacher can empart new knowledge to 20 to 30 kids within 45 minutes. This requires that we actually try to teach 20-30 kids with the materials.  A good lesson plan, for example, should be more like the detailed sequence required to prepare for a TV show than a general outline.  iCivics materials do not require a full day of professional development to learn how to use the materials, or use up a lot of class time without covering a substantial number of learning standards.  

Most of our materials can be used with only minutes of preparation because they include content and pedagogy, and they do not require a lot of set up time. Of course, that is not to say that a longer investment in preparing for class would not be useful. In fact it would, but we know how pressed teachers are for time, and we design for the reality that teachers face each day.  

3) Professional: Quality First

Having said that, thousands of teachers would not have adopted iCivics materials if they were it not of the highest quality. The standard for quality can mean very different things but to us it means a reliable source of curriculum that:

  • Integrates content and pedagogy,
  • Keeps students engaged
  • Delivers non-partisan resources

Promises accurate content

4) And a little Puppy Love

And we supported our early adopters in learning about our materials. We helped teachers tell other teachers about iCivics.


Thank you for your support over the years.  We keep growing because of you!

-iCivics Executive Director, Louise Dubé