Civics, Parliament and ComView

29 November 2023

What can you expect from a conference session from Parliament of Victoria to look like? Lots of hands-on activities, time for discussion and some strategies to make connections between civics concepts and your classroom.

On Tuesday the 21st of November, we headed out to VCTA’s annual Comview Conference. While we were there we facilitated a hands-on workshop where teachers explored representation and what it means for MPs, how to encourage students to look at issues from different perspectives, and the importance of this in the law-making process. Teachers had the opportunity to work in small groups and explore some of Parliaments of key resources that are designed to support teacher understanding and student learning in the classroom.

The first activity that we used was the Three Levels of Government card deck, organising services and responsibilities into the level of government – federal, state or local. There was lots of as the teachers tried to determine who they believed was most responsible for overseeing those services, and also why.  

The teachers’ loved this activity, finding the card deck really clear and a simple way to explore the different responsibilities. It allowed for students to engage with the content in a meaningful way, rather than just being given each level of governments’ responsibilities (often in a table), students are encouraged to think about what level is the best fit, engage in meaningful conversation and justify their views. As an added bonus, students get to see that many of the responsibilities do not lie solely with one level – demonstrating that the something that seems quite simple is actually quite complex.

The teachers enthusiastically started discussing ways in which they could modify this activity, such as removing one level of government—state governments were removed faster than you could say ‘state governments’—grouping responsibilities thematically—for instance, transport, foreign affairs and institutions—or having students allocate the necessary funding to each responsibility. The cards could even be used to reallocate responsibilities to outside government organisations, or to explore the different systems of government around the world. There was also a suggestion made to use the cards in Business Management; assigning students two or three responsibility cards and asking them to create a business with these responsibilities as the focus.

The Engaging Perspectives flashcards also received an equally positive reaction. This activity focuses on considering a range of different viewpoints and ideas on any given topic, reflecting the work and decision-making processes of a Member of Parliament. For this activity, teachers considered an issue from the perspective of a potential constituent. To understand the constituents' views, everyone selected a stakeholder, a priority and emotional motivation card. It was interesting to hear the range of views that everyone had, especially when it was from the perspective of the same stakeholder but with different priorities and emotions.

Again, we discussed ways that this activity could be modified to suit the needs of different classes; one suggestion being to remove one of the perspectives cards (we said farewell to the priority cards) to give students a broader constituent viewpoint. To make it more challenging students could take multiple priority or emotion cards, or students could select the cards at random or select them for their peers.

Some alternative uses were also suggested, with many teachers suggesting the cards could be incredibly beneficial when discussing contemporary, controversial or challenging issues in the classroom, encouraging students to consider an issue from a very specific viewpoint. There was even discussion as to how the cards could be used with Socratic circle discussions, role plays, debates or written responses across a range of subjects – English, Civics and Citizenship, History, Science or even Drama to name a few. It was also discussed that they could be embedded in subjects with design elements, where you may be designing something – anything, for a particular client with particular wants and needs, whether it is a business proposal or a lifestyle plan.

A very big thank you to all the teachers in our workshop, we’re so glad to hear you enjoyed the resources, and a big thank you to VCTA for having us along.

We always look forward to hearing how our resources are used in your classrooms so please, if you have any feedback, we would love to hear from you. And don’t feel limited to telling us about your Civics and Citizenship classroom, we’re always impressed by how our resources are used across other subjects and in really creative ways.