Using Investigation and Discussion to Inquire about Issues in Primary Social Studies, pp. 4 of 15

Hess’ Town Meeting Model

Contrary to the previous inquiry model, the end goal of the town meeting model (TMM) by Diana Hess (2009) is not about students taking social actions as part of their inquiry. Rather TMM will enable students to develop multiple perspectives that exist for an issue and provide them opportunities to communicate with others who hold contrary views. Perspective taking is essential for effective participation in a democracy as it promotes empathy and understanding of a wide range of views that can contribute to a more informed and balanced decision.

For TMM to work, it is helpful to select issues that are current and controversial with competing views. Before the town meeting commences, teachers will have to equip students with the necessary background knowledge about an issue and identify and assign roles to them. They will provide students reading resources that focus on their assigned role positions and the accompanying worksheets that require them to state their positions and identify the pros and cons of the issue. Students will be given some time to prepare for their roles using these resources. On the day of the town meeting, students in role will be seated in a large circle. They will be identified by the paper tents listing their roles. At the start of the lesson, teachers will remind students of the issue for discussion as well as the assessment rubric which will focus on the subject matter knowledge, role portrayal and effectiveness as participants. Students will be made to introduce their roles and positions first before the actual discussion begins. They will raise their hands to speak. The teacher’s role will be to call upon students to air their views, assess their performance as discussants and facilitate the discussion. For the lesson conclusion and debrief, teachers will sum up the main points that were raised during the town meeting and get the class to reflect on what went well and what did not. They will also provide students feedback on their performance.

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

Newsletter Subscription

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up-to-date with new journal issues!