Document Type


Publication Date

January 2011


Previous research on classroom uses for political cartoons identified two negative trends: creative stagnation (as teachers utilized them solely for interpretation) and age limitation (as researchers suggested they fit best with gifted and older students). Recent scholarship has addressed both trends by enabling young adolescent students to creatively express newly generated understandings through construction of original political cartoons. During such authentic assessment activities, students demonstrated high levels of criticality by using effective and efficient technologies to create original political cartoons, which then elicited constructive whole class interpretative discussions. This prior research did not detail specific methodological steps that positively influenced students’ original political cartoons. This paper compares students’ original political cartoons generated from two methodological approaches that differ in two small, yet consequential steps. One teacher required students to utilize concept maps and substitution lists prior to original political cartoon construction while the other did not. Based on the collected data, these two steps enabled the former teacher’s students to more effectively incorporate intricate and complex encoded messages through the use of abstract symbolism and complementary textual statements. The findings prove meaningful for teachers and researchers interested in enabling students’ creative and critical expressions of historical thinking.


This research was originally published in the open access journal Social Studies Research and Practice: