Topic 1: Issues important to our class and the local community

This topic is based on the research investigation in Discovering Democracy through Research, 'Taking issue', Curriculum Corporation 2000, (pp 21-34). Teachers who wish to extend this topic could use this investigation. Discovering Democracy through Research also contains a useful introduction for teachers, which includes assessment advice and outlines the inquiry research process.

PDF downloads of the 'Introduction' and 'Taking issue' from Discovering Democracy through Research are provided with this unit.

Focus questions

What issues are important to our class?
What viewpoints are being expressed about these issues?
Which interest groups are involved?
What issues are important to our community?
Are they the same as issues identified by our class?
Are members of our community involved in any interest groups?

Part 1: Issues important to our class

Explain to students that they are going to identify a range of current issues and consider some possible ways that they might be resolved.

  • Discuss with students the following questions:
    • What are some of the issues you know about?
    • What are some points of view about these issues?
    • Do you know the names of any groups that are active in these issues?
    • Who is responsible for resolving these issues?
    • List these issues on the board. For each issue identify whether it is a local, state or national issue, some initial views about the issue, the names of any interest groups and how it might be resolved.
  • Provide students with information on a range of local, state and national issues. This could be in the form of newspaper cuttings, photographs, brief news reports, articles or video segments. Students could also use the Internet to access the websites of newspapers and other media outlets.
  • Provide student groups with Student handout 2 to record their findings. (Photocopy this form onto an A3 page.)
  • The student groups present their findings to the class. Make a class list of the issues which are most important to students. Explain to students that they will use their class list to develop a community survey and conduct further research about the issue.

Part 2: Issues important to our community

Using the issues identified by students, develop a class survey form which can be photocopied and used by all students. Students can use this form to interview community members or they can leave surveys with the interviewees and collect them at a later date.

A sample survey form which teachers can modify in Word format is provided in Student handout 3. Alternatively, students could design their own community survey form. For a more open-ended survey and advice on interview techniques, teachers could refer to the research investigation in Discovering Democracy through Research, 'Taking issue' pp 21-34.

Students individually, or in pairs, conduct surveys of five to ten people over the course of a week. (Surveys may be left with respondents to complete or students could interview directly.)

Students report back on their survey findings and collate the results.

In groups students prepare a brief report on the community survey results collected by the whole class. Students examine issues raised in the responses of the interviews. The following questions could guide them:

  • Are the issues that are important for our class also important for the community?
  • What were the most important issues for our interviewees?
  • What new issues did the survey reveal?
  • What key groups are involved in these issues?
  • Are different age groups concerned about different issues?
  • Are males and females concerned about different issues?
  • Are people in our community members of interest groups? Make a list of these groups.

Overview | Notes for teachers | Introductory activity | Topic 1 | Topic 2 | Topic 3 | Student handout 1 | Student handout 2 | Student handout 3 | Student handout 4 | Student handout 5