Four Worlds of History

What if you could lay a simple framework over a ton of information and create an epiphany in the field of teaching history?

CALIS has developed an analytical framework for history and the social sciences. Students in our pilot project are able to tackle more content with greater complexity.  Teachers see new levels of student engagement in critical thinking and understanding, grades 6-12.

Professor Steven Lamy uses the Four Worlds of International Relations to distinguish four competing power networks – political, economic, social, and cultural – each with its own set of actors, sources of power, needs and priorities.  His analytical framework is used to address the complexities of international relations in an era of increasing globalization.  This frame is used extensively in CALIS materials as an analytical tool for high school courses in government, economics, and contemporary world and US history. 

A new adapted analytical model, the Four Worlds of History (4WH), is a framework that distinguishes aspects of society – political, economic, social, and cultural – as social science factors.  The frame is used to illustrate relationships between factors; it enables students to compare societies, past to present.  The model focuses on determining lessons of history, evaluating continuity and change in the human condition, and applying its relevance to personal and policy choices today.

The 4WH analytical tool builds literacy through critical thinking. As a teaching strategy, 4WH fully integrates rich content and a systematic process so that deep understanding is gained by strengthening academics skills - better reading comprehension, detailed retention, substantive writing, and articulate discussion.

The nature of epiphany is that it changes the universe without moving a hair.*

If it is true that when we have the right tools, our work can be done better and faster—then an innovative learning tool for young students would be extraordinary. In the same amount of class time, they could work smarter. Every week that they carry out their studies more efficiently would build ideas and skills that may have gone untapped. Years of effective learning would lead to a new landscape of possibilities. What if there was such a tool for teaching history...

Because the Four Worlds is an analytical process, the process must be developed each time it is applied to new content. We capitalize on previous work, but there is new territory with each application -- to conceptualize the issue, design the focus question, map the content, and support the sub-topics & context building. The project/process is a constant dialog... between teachers at our meetings and between students in the classroom.  That is the beauty and the bumpy ride of uncovering history and its life lessons.

Special thanks to our partner teachers...
They are patient and determined, collegial and creative -- all the critical ingredients to push through an innovative developmental project. The Four Worlds model cannot grow and succeed without teachers who are open to experimental strategies, especially ones that engage new ways of thinking -- new ways of classroom teaching & lifelong learning.

These are exciting times! Fight on!

*a quote from Joss Whedon

4W results → Impact on Student Achievement

4W of Literature

4W in Spanish 

4W powerpoints

4W and Common Core

Trish Hanson,
now at Hawkins High School,
is working to integrate
Four Worlds across grades 9-12


"This is the tool
I've been waiting for!"
Jenn Manning, 6th grade
History and English
LA Academy Middle School
South Central LA

Materials are free online!

The collection is directly aligned with California content standards for History-Social Science. (The collection is coded using the standards.)

To access materials, visit the Activities Database
and search: 4wh

The online database serves as a digital file cabinet for teachers who attend trainings to easily follow through with classroom implementation.

For partner teachers: pioneering powerpoints

You are welcome to review materials and contact CALIS to arrange a training.