Research News

UW-Madison’s Hess to receive Distinguished Career Research in Social Studies Award

November 14, 2017

UW-Madison’s Diana Hess is receiving the 2017 Jean Dresden Grambs Distinguished Career Research Award from the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS).

This prestigious annual honor recognizes professionals who have made extensive contributions to knowledge concerning significant areas of social studies education through meritorious research. Hess, who is dean of the School of Education and the Karen A. Falk Distinguished Chair in Education, is being recognized for her outstanding career that includes important and groundbreaking work on teaching controversial political issues in the classroom.

“Perhaps no social studies education scholar now living has done so much and achieved so much as Dr. Hess,” said Walter Parker, a former winner of the award and a faculty member at the University of Washington-Seattle. “She is the grandest name in our field and for very good reason. Her research on social studies education generally, and civic education especially, is known for its field-advancing qualities and its imaginative vision.”

Diana Hess in the classroom
School of Education Dean Diana Hess' groundbreaking
research examines the importance of engaging young
people in classroom discussions about controversial
issues. 
Since she began her career as a high school teacher in Downers Grove, Ill., in 1979, Hess has contributed significantly to the advancement of the field of social studies through her research, teaching, developing new curriculum and programs, and mentoring. Her innovative research includes, most recently, a five-year longitudinal study involving observations, interviews and surveys with more than 1,000 students in 21 schools and multiple states. This work provided compelling evidence that engaging young people in discussion of controversial political issues is an essential component in preparing them for full participation in civic life.

“Dr. Hess’ research conveys important understandings about the role of discussion and deliberation of controversial topics in the classroom,” NCSS Executive Director Lawrence Paska says in a news release announcing the award.  “It demonstrates the essential role that teachers play in ensuring that we provide our students with the content knowledge and skills necessary to be effective participants in our democracy.”

Hess has shared her research broadly with educators and researchers through extensive professional development programs, conference presentations, speaking engagements and articles in peer-reviewed journals. She also has authored two award-winning books. “Controversy in the Classroom: The Democratic Power of Discussion,” won the NCSS Exemplary Research Award in 2009, while “The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education,” co-authored with UW-Madison’s Paula McAvoy, won the American Educational Research Association’s Outstanding Book Award in 2016 and the prestigious Grawemeyer Award in 2017. Hess has served as dean of the School of Education since August 2015.

Through her previous role as senior vice president of the Spencer Foundation from September 2011 through September 2015, Hess took the lead in deepening and expanding the foundation’s work related to civic education.

Hess serves as a member of the Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago, an organization where she served as the associate director from 1987-1995, and the iCivics Scholars Advisory Board. Hess earned her Ph.D. from the University of Washington, Seattle, her MA from the University of Illinois, Urbana, and her BA from Western Illinois University.

Diana Hess
Hess
The award will be presented to Hess in San Francisco on Wednesday, Nov. 15, at the NCSS 97th Annual Conference, during the College and University Faculty Assembly (CUFA) Business Meeting. Hess will deliver a presentation during the conference titled, “The Case for High Quality Discussion of Controversial Issues,” on Friday, Nov. 17.

“For more than 30 years I have participated in the rich intellectual communities created by NCSS and CUFA,” says Hess, who has been a faculty member with the School of Education’s No. 1-ranked Department of Curriculum and Instruction since 1999. “Because these communities have so dramatically shaped my work I am especially honored to receive this award.”

Founded in 1921, National Council for the Social Studies is the largest professional association in the country devoted solely to social studies education. The NCSS Annual Conference is the largest and most comprehensive social studies professional development conference in the United States, where social studies educators share, interact, develop ideas, and enhance their skills.

-- Information in this report was provided via a National Council for the Social Studies news release