Democracy Lab

After careful consideration, The Institute on the Common Good has decided to take our Democracy Lab Program offline for the near future. We have received a considerable amount of input over the past few years, and recognize that to ensure we maintain high quality standards in the curriculum and facilitation; we would need to invest additional monies and time. With the current economic conditions, we simply are unable to ensure adequate resources for the maintenance of excellent support and for up to date technology and innovative practices. We thank you for your support and interest in the online courses. If you have any questions or comments, please direct them to Fredricka Brown at  You may still view our website and access course materials at


Students from across the nation gather online in the Institute on the Common Good’s Democracy Lab to examine and discuss pressing issues facing the United States. Integrated into existing courses at their schools, Democracy Lab helps high school teachers and college instructors provide a diversity of perspectives for their students through lively communication with students from different backgrounds, geographic locations and perspectives.

Current issues that are relevant to today’s students and applicable to the news they are hearing and reading create the setting for Democracy Lab students to gain a functional knowledge of dialogue and deliberation skills, and then have the opportunity to practice those skills with the guidance of a trained facilitator. Students also become teachers themselves as they share personal experiences and learn from one another.

Recent topics have included Americans’ place in the world, health care reform and presidential elections. Participating students were able to discuss these topics not just with students in their own classrooms, but also with those who come to the discussion from a very different point of view. They learned how to have respectful and meaningful dialogue with those who have other opinions as well as how those opinions have the power to shape the world.

“By connecting with my peers across the nation, I learned that our individual choices, including my own, can have a large impact on what we want to achieve in the world,” said one student who recently completed the course. “By sharing personal experiences, I gained a new perspective on how to communicate with others in a more constructive way.”

Democracy Lab provides teachers a powerful tool toward developing strong citizens at both the high school and college levels. The Democracy Lab online module can enhance students’ engagement in learning, independent inquiry and cognitive development. By participating, students get a real taste of democracy by working together with a diverse group of peers to address an important issue. The online module can be used in a range of courses, not simply civics courses that traditionally explore democratic issues. Sample course syllabi are available.

The program for college and university students includes challenging material for both undergraduate and graduate students to reflect and take action on pressing national and global issues with their peers across disciplines.

The high school program contains age-appropriate materials and issues with direct relevance to the lives of high school students, with the curriculum integrating state and national standards addressing specific skills such as critical thinking and reasoning, collaboration, and self-direction.

The ICG’s Democracy Lab is funded in part by a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) and the Council on Public Policy Education.

Additional information is available online at


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