Leading Classroom Discussions About Population Policy in Singapore, pp. 2 of 5

Part 1: Building Relevant Background Knowledge with a Concept Map (15-20 minutes)

Accessing what students already know and believe about population policy is a key first step. Students will likely come to this activity with prior knowledge. For example, they see or experience overcrowded transportation, observe foreign laborers on construction projects, and know foreign students living in Singapore with their families. One way to help students tap into their background knowledge is to ask them to complete a concept map of the issue. While students can do this individually, with partners, or in small groups, we have found it is best for students to first complete this initial part of the inquiry independently. The process is to:

  1. Distribute blank pieces of paper to students. Large butcher or construction works well to provide ample space for students to represent their ideas.
  2. Ask students to draw a circle in the middle of the paper and write “Singapore population policy” within it.
  3. Prompt students to draw circles extending from the center that outline key features or aspects of this issue. Here is where they have an opportunity to identify what they already know about the topic.
  4. Ask students to draw a square around each of these extended circles and identify how they came to learn about each key feature or aspect of population control they identified in their circles. Possible responses here would be personal experience (e.g., witnessed crowding on MRT), family/friend network (e.g., conversations at home), media outlets (newspapers, blogs, social networking sites, etc.).
  5. Then prompt students to organize their thinking and prepare to participate in a conversation with a partner in class. They can complete the statement: “My view on population policy in Singapore is My reasons for this are…”  Here students have an opportunity to begin building evidentiary support for claims they will make with a partner and then in a subsequent whole class discussion.
  6. Organize students in pairs or small groups to compare and contrast their “Singapore population concept maps.” Students take turns sharing their completed statements: “My view on population policy in Singapore is…. My reasons are…”

This process above meets several goals. Students have an opportunity to vocalize their prior or existing knowledge about the issue; they begin to express this knowledge in the form of claims supported by evidence; and they begin to appreciate the different knowledge and experiences that others bring to this issue. (In our experience, even in relatively homogenous classrooms there can be significant diversity of views when the issue is controversial.)  

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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