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Harkness: Honing Civics Skills in All Classrooms
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March 21, 2024 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM EDT

Harkness: Honing Civics Skills in All Classrooms


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Harkness: Honing Civics Skills in All Classrooms


March 21, 2024 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM EDT







English-Language Learners (ELL), Gifted and Talented, Students with Disabilities
Grade Level Grades K-12, Professional Development

About This Webinar

In this 2024 Virtual Conference session, participants will learn how to incorporate Harkness into their classrooms. Harkness is a discussion method that develops collaborative skills which foster civic engagement and participation. In Harkness discussions, students explore together, speak courageously, listen compassionately and understand with empathy as a collaborative approach to problem solving in any classroom. This method helps students foster and hone skills that are truly transferable to their adult lives.


Profile picture for user Tia Costello
8th Grade Social Studies Teacher, Amesbury Middle School

Educator and AFT Civics Design Team Member

Tia Costello teaches eighth-grade social studies at Amesbury Middle School in Amesbury, Mass. She came to teaching as a second career, after 15 years in the public sector. She has been a teacher for 10 years and is a member of AFT Amesbury, Local 1033.

After earning her bachelor’s in political science from Merrimack College and her master’s in American politics from American University, Costello worked in Massachusetts county government before taking a position with the U.S. Census Bureau, managing partnership programs, outreach and education among hard-to-count populations. Part of her work was helping communities use the resulting demographic and housing data to help with grant applications and business proposals. 

She was part of the 2000 and 2010 censuses, and in between those, she earned her master’s in education. “Everything that I have done in my career has been about educating the public, so it made sense for me to apply those skills to teaching kids,” she says. Costello began teaching classical history to sixth-graders before switching to eighth-grade American government. Like many districts across the nation, her district lacked resources for civics education. When the American Federation of Teachers invited Costello to participate in a focus group about civics education, she jumped in. “We asked for resources, for professional development in civics education, but our district wasn’t giving us anything,” she says. “I was able to bring that concern to AFT’s focus groups.”

As a member of AFT’s civics design team, Costello brings her public sector experience and perspective as a career-change teacher to the work. “There is a real vacuum in support for civics education. Our nation is facing a crisis about what citizenship really means. We need to understand how important democracy is—even when I was teaching about the Roman republic—it was important to remember that that republic fell apart.”

Her goal for the civics design team is to create professional development that other teachers can easily tailor to their needs. She also wants to build teachers’ confidence in grappling with the difficult issues that civics education raises: “I want to help teachers feel comfortable teaching civics, instead of ignoring current events or shying away from political discussion.” 

To that end, her research within the team focuses on strategies for civil discussion—“how to disagree without being disagreeable,” she says. Discerning fact from fiction and developing techniques for vetting sources are also among her areas of focus. 

Civics has been deeply embedded in both of Costello’s careers. “Democracies are complicated, messy and slow, but it sure beats the alternative,” she says. “Anything worth having is worth working for—it takes work, but it’s worth it. You have to practice civics engagement because you will be called upon to do it. If you don’t get to practice, you won’t feel comfortable doing it. That’s what is at stake—whether our citizens can engage with our democracy and can make their voices heard.”

Participating in AFT’s effort to design civics education professional development connects Costello with the union and the profession she has chosen. “I love that there is a cross section of people from different states. It’s good to have different perspectives on the team,” she says, “and I hope that the tools and strategies we create will reach more teachers as a result.”

Professional Credit

Share My Lesson webinars are available for one-hour of PD credit. A certificate of completion will be available for download at the end of your session that you can submit for your school's or district's approval.

In addition, Share My Lesson has arrangements in place as follows:




March 21, 2024
1.03 MB


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