Advisory Circle of Educators – November 27 and 28, 2017 Meeting Summary
Elections Canada (EC) convened an Advisory Circle of Educators (ACOE) to provide input and expert advice on the development and production of EC's new pedagogical resources. The ACOE will provide advice on EC's civic education program to ensure relevance, quality and credibility over its three-year mandate.
The inaugural meeting was held on November 27 and 28, 2017. Sixteen participants attended, including one from every provincial and territorial jurisdiction, an educator from a First Nations school, and two members at large.
Throughout the two days, members assessed two products under development and gave conceptual input on three areas where classroom activities could be developed. Members gave valuable advice on best strategies for engaging students and teachers.
This report summarizes the themes and recommendations that emerged.
Members provided insight into the general learning environment in their jurisdictions, including the placement of social studies and citizenship education in the regional curriculum. It was noted that:
- Citizenship/civics education is mandatory in only one jurisdiction in Canada. Therefore, the more EC can tie subjects together, the better.
- Semestered school years mean that the field of social studies is not always taught during election time. Bringing up these topics in other subjects increases the chances that students will encounter the concepts during an election period.
- Members also noted the importance of weaving social studies topics through several different subject areas.
- Some participants noted that classes on citizenship and elections are often taught by non-experts (such as the school football coach) who struggle with the content.
- Several jurisdictions are undergoing curriculum review, and it was noted that high priority is given to Indigenous content and perspective due to calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
In their introductions, participants called to mind the impact that educators can have in forming future voters when they have the right tools to do so. One member shared an experience in teaching about democracy to grade 9 students in a First Nations school: the night before an election, one of their former students who had since turned 18 called to ask where to vote.
Overall, members indicated that EC is on the right track with its approach to inquiry-based learning in its civic education resource development. They found that the pedagogy in the resources presented during the meeting was solid and consistent with modern approaches. In particular, the “minds-on” or activating activities stood out because they encourage critical thinking. One member mentioned that they are impressed with EC's commitment to taking a critical approach and providing substantial materials that go beyond what has been done to date. There was also much debate about how the original question, “Why Voting Matters”, should be changed to “Does Voting Matter?”. Reframing the question in this way better reflected EC's pedagogical approach found in the new resources. In addition to the inquiry-based learning, members saw the resources as student-centred, interactive, and engaging, as well as connected to curricula.
Members acknowledged EC as the content expert, not only on the subject of elections, but also due to its access to a rich variety of content and sources that can provide great educational value if adapted for classroom use. This wealth of content―such as maps and electoral data―can serve to make significant pedagogical connections for students.
Many were interested in EC's data on voter turnout, demographic statistics, and historical data and information. This information was viewed as a way to make connections in subjects such as math, social studies, history and geography. In addition, some suggested that this information could also touch on other subjects, such as statistics, civics, economics, English and visual arts.
While all members of the ACOE supported the direction of EC's new civic education resources, they emphasized the need to pilot them with teachers and students before moving into final versioning, design and production. They stressed that it is particularly important to pilot with both expert and non-expert teachers in the subject matter to make sure that all teachers can easily use the materials. Teacher and student feedback will be a critical success factor; through piloting, EC will be able to hone the various activities.
It was suggested that a teacher training component be built into each resource. Each resource would thus have an accompanying support piece. Moreover, when developing the teacher's guides for each resource, it was recommended that EC build in foundational elements such as framing questions for teachers who are less familiar with the content (e.g. “What do you observe?”, “What do you see?”).
While there were many suggestions throughout the meeting on ways to further incorporate First Nations, Métis and Inuit connections, EC's inclusive approach was seen as solid.
All participants agreed with EC's plan to produce its resources in a variety of media in order to meet the varied needs of Canadian classrooms. They confirmed that EC needs to produce resources in digital, downloadable and print format and to use video, apps, and other technologies to provide various ways of accessing resources. Participants also found that the tactile activities they tested during the meeting resonated with them.
At the end of the meeting, EC discussed plans for the future agenda, including:
- Best practices for promoting and marketing EC resources and programs
- Ideas for teacher engagement and professional supports
- Integrating student assessment into resources
All members indicated that they would be willing to participate in testing and other activities above and beyond their formal committee involvement. Those who do not have a classroom said that they could call on their network of teachers for pilot testing.
“I appreciated the opportunity to be involved in this. The meeting went beyond my expectations. To echo the sentiments of others, it was refreshing to be working with an organization that values educators and their ideas. The focus on more inquiry-based, critical work and the conversations and discussions reflect that you are on the right track!”
|John Stewart||Northwest Territories|
|Sonja van der Putten||British Columbia|
|Darryl Fillier||Newfoundland and Labrador|
|Stéphanie Babineau||New Brunswick|
|Ian Coffin||Prince Edward Island|
|Wendy Driscoll||Nova Scotia|
|Josy Roske||First Nations schools|
|Alan Sears||Member at large|
|Christina Ganev||Member at large|
|Lisa Brazeau||Lemmex Group|
|Rachel Collishaw||Education Consultant|
|Stéphane Perrault||Acting Chief Electoral Officer of Canada|
|Susan Torosian||Executive Director, Policy and Public Affairs|
|June Creelman||Special Advisor on Civic Education|
|Jasmine Demers||Senior Outreach Officer|
|Sandra Baranek||Outreach Officer|
|Christine Smith||Outreach Officer|
|Allan Sibley||Senior Outreach Officer|
|9:00||Welcome from acting Chief Electoral Officer|
|9:30||Participants' introduction roundtable|
|10:30||Growing Future Voters: Strategy for Renewing Elections Canada's Civic Education Program|
|11:00||Civic Action Case Study–prototype activity for general feedback and consideration|
|1:15||Voting Rights Through Time–prototype activity for general feedback and consideration|
|3:45||Resource: Why Voting Matters–for brainstorming and discussion on Day 2|
|9:00||Resource: Why Voting Matters–for brainstorming and co-development|
|10:30||Resource: Geography of Elections–for brainstorming|
|12:30||Resource: Interpreting Electoral Data–for brainstorming|