Inquiry-based learning, collaboration, student voice, clear learning goals and curricular relevance: these are the hallmarks of good pedagogy. Depending on their location, teachers have been maintaining these key features during school building shutdowns in the face of COVID-19. We don’t know when the next federal election will be, but the civic education team at Elections Canada will continue to support teachers and students through these challenging times.
In 2018, we launched our series of free resources designed primarily for inquiry-based learning, collaboration and student voice. After establishing an advisory circle of educators and pilot testing the resources in classrooms across Canada, we heard again and again that teachers and students appreciated the hands-on classroom learning materials for small group activities. These materials enabled students to engage in meaningful in-person conversations that developed their knowledge and interest in our democracy.
Adapting to the new reality
With the advent of emergency distance learning, we began imagining how we could adapt our hands-on resources in a relevant manner and maintain the integrity of our inquiry-based learning experiences. By April 2020, we published simple adaptations of our resources for distance learning, using some online components such as our videos and fact sheets while leaving the activity boards and card sets aside. Each resource was pared down to meet the needs of at-home learning, while keeping as many elements of critical thinking, student voice and collaboration as possible.
In addition to our adapted resources, teachers continue to use the wealth of classroom-friendly information about Canada’s elections that is available on the Elections and Democracy website. Access to reliable information is key to successful inquiry-based learning, especially about political or electoral topics. Teachers need background information for themselves and sources with accessible language for their students to investigate critical questions. Whether classrooms are online, in person or in a blended learning environment, we are pleased to provide teachers and students with accurate, non-partisan information about our elections and democracy.
Supporting teachers virtually
In September 2020, we launched our suite of blended learning tools that present ways to combine both online and in-person learning strategies. Blended pedagogy is a new type learning framework for many teachers but the goals remain the same. Teachers want to help students collaborate, discuss and inquire online and in person.
While the resources themselves involve classroom-ready activities, their pedagogical strategies can go well beyond one class period. For example, each activity includes a key inquiry question such as How inclusive is our democracy? or Does voting matter? These questions are carefully designed to engage students in exploring the information in the resource and beyond.
While we have not physically attended teacher conferences this year, we now offer virtual PD sessions for groups of teachers across Canada. We have also created a series of professional learning videos that teachers can access anytime. Each video includes an overview of one of our resources, tips for engaging students and our own stories from the classroom. We are dedicated to supporting teachers virtually and to continuing to engage students in conversations about elections and democracy.
Despite the pandemic, our team has been busy releasing new tools to better support teachers. I am especially proud of our robust curriculum connections tool. Using a simple search tool, teachers can now look up resources by province and course name based on their specific needs. We know that engaging future voters is about informing and inspiring students, not just in social studies or citizenship class but across the curriculum. Teachers will find that our resources have connections to language arts, mathematics and information technology courses throughout the secondary years. ❚
Resources and tools for learning, teaching and engaging about federal elections and democracy are available at https://electionsanddemocracy.ca/.