Assessing the Impact of the Holocaust Museum Houston's Field Trips on Adolescents' Civic Values

33 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2017

See all articles by Daniel Bowen

Daniel Bowen

Department of Educational Administration & Human Resource Development; Texas A&M University

Brian Kisida

University of Missouri

Date Written: July 11, 2017


Civics-based educational interventions are intended to prepare students for effectively engaging in democratic society. Social studies curriculum and instruction scholars have made strong cases for the vital role that teaching adolescents about the Holocaust serves in fostering and reinforcing civic values. While these lessons have great promise, however, effectively teaching about the Holocaust poses substantial challenges for educators whom may not be well-versed or comfortable with teaching challenging, sensitive topics. Holocaust museums and memorials have played a critical role in helping teachers overcome these obstacles. Scholars have commended these efforts, but the body of empirical research evaluating these supports is limited. Applying experimental methods with a sample of 865 students across 15 middle and high school campuses, we examine the causal effects that a field trip intervention to the Holocaust Museum Houston has on students’ civic values.

We find that this experience has a significant, positive impact on students’ desires to protect civil rights and liberties. Students also demonstrate a more accurate grasp of historical facts regarding the Holocaust. Overall, we did not find significant evidence that this intervention affected students’ sense of civic obligation, empathy, willingness to take on roles as “upstanders,” inclinations towards civil disobedience, or the willingness to donate to charities whose missions align with these objectives. We also find that this experience appears to have a negative effect with regard to tolerance. However, this particular result is possibly attributed to ceiling or framing effects. Finally, we find substantial differences in outcomes by student subgroups. Specifically, female students experience significant negative effects with regard to their senses of civic obligation and empathy as a result of their field trip experiences; estimates on these outcomes with males are in the positive direction, though they are statistically insignificant. Hispanic/Latinx and African-American students appear to have propelled the overall positive effect on the preservation of civil liberties; white students experience positive effects on support for civil disobedience in response to acts of injustice but demonstrate negative effects on empathy. Finally, students from less-educated parent households appear to have driven the negative effect on tolerance. Students from college-educated parental households experience positive effects in terms of preserving liberty as well as their willingness to financially support charitable causes whose missions overlap with secondary Holocaust education objectives.

Keywords: Civics, Holocaust, museum education

Suggested Citation

Bowen, Daniel and Kisida, Brian, Assessing the Impact of the Holocaust Museum Houston's Field Trips on Adolescents' Civic Values (July 11, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Daniel Bowen (Contact Author)

Department of Educational Administration & Human Resource Development ( email )

511 Harrington Tower
College Station, TX 77843-3137
United States

Texas A&M University ( email )

511 Harrington Tower
College Station, TX 77843-3137
United States

Brian Kisida

University of Missouri ( email )

219 Professional Building
Columbia, MO 65201
United States

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