Victorian SOSE Supported Case Studies

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The early response

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Mt Erin Secondary College

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Southern Metropolitan Region

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Diamond Valley Secondary College

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Eastern Region

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Westall Secondary College

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Bentleigh Catholic Secondary College

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Arthurs Creek Primary School

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Edithvale Primary School

The early response

This report focuses on early responses to the distribution of the Primary and Secondary versions of the Discovering Democracy Kit. In particular it describes the progress made in two metropolitan regions – Eastern and Southern. It tells the story from the point of view of two network leaders and six school teachers/administrators.

A full and conclusive report would be more extensive and rigorous in its approach and findings. Given the limited resources of the SOSESAV we decided to provide largely unedited commentary and explanations from most of the teachers we spoke to. The reader may find threads of experience and issues in what we present, however we feel that our methodology and small sample mean that we cannot draw valid conclusions from our work. However we note that

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Southern Metropolitan Region

Network Leader: Angela Dawson
Mt Erin Secondary College

Network Leader Perspective

Teachers in the Southern Metropolitan Region have shown an exceptionally high level of interest in the ‘Discovering Democracy’ materials. More than 300 teachers from primary, secondary, Catholic and Independent schools have attended network meetings in the region. Host schools have responded positively to requests to use their school facilities to promote the Discovering Democracy materials. Professional Development sessions for teachers are conducted out of school hours. SOSE teachers have shown their commitment and level of interest in promoting Civics and Citizenship education in their schools.

Unpacking Discovering Democracy

The Discovering Democracy materials generate most interest when they are unpacked with other teachers using the opportunity to share reaction to the kit, videos, classroom posters and the excellent teacher friendly units of work. The unpacking process has also provided some opportunity for hands-on experience with the CD ROM.

Teachers are impressed with the detail and variety of the units, and also the way that so many of the units can easily be included in existing SOSE courses and school programs. The chance for teachers to discuss their classroom ideas with other teachers is an important factor in the success of the implementation phase. Many teachers leave network meetings enthusiastic about the materials and how they can use them immediately in their classes.

Many primary and secondary schools have established Civics and Citizenship units involving family and school rules, ‘law and you’ style units, trips to the local Council, Electoral Education Centre, State Parliament, Canberra and student involvement in local community issues such as litter, revegetation projects and traffic safety. For school such as these, the Discovering Democracy units are an exciting support. For those schools who are inititiating Civics and Citizenship education, the materials provide the structure and guidelines, as well as the resources for implementation.

At this stage there appears to be more interest from the primary schools which often send a team of teachers to network meetings or request a whole briefing on Civics and Citizenship with the object of implementing a CCE course or units within their integrated curriculum. Many secondary schools have components of Civics and Citizenship education across the curriculum (History, SOSE, Legal Studies, Geography, Politics, Commerce, English). They are pleased to have the ‘Discovering Democracy’ model showing how CCE can be more fully implemented. Interest in the DD materials is clearly growing in secondary schools in the Southern Region.

Characterising teacher early responses

Some of the strengths of the ‘Discovering Democracy’ units are

Barriers to implementation



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Eastern Region

Network Leader Perspective

In the Eastern Region Max Moegerlien has delivered 6 twilight workshops, to which approximately 70 teachers have come. The strategy is focused on the development of smaller networks. At this stage one of these is functional – Diamond Valley with 12 schools participating. Several more small networks are being formed.

Schools have been keen to volunteer to act as a base and provide further professional Development activities in the future. Teachers have been strongly positive in their responses, especially in the workshops where the materials are examined, and teachers actually complete some of the student activities.

By mid term 2 1999, primary schools were by far the more active group. For example the Diamond Valley network has 11 primary and one secondary school. Secondary teachers, while positive about the materials once they are exposed to them, face a range of competing pressures in the ‘overcrowded curriculum’ 7 – 10 and the demands of the VCE. Many teachers have not seen the kit until they come to the network meetings, and are unsure if it is in the school.

The kit is valued by the teachers for reasons similar to those described in the Southern Region section of this report. Underlying this positive response is an appreciation of the

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Mt Erin Secondary College

Population: 1060


Civics and citizenship education sits comfortably in the SOSE Learning Area although there are valuable components of CCE in other Learning Areas and extra curricular activities: There are 13 teachers who work in Years 7 – 10 SOSE, although there are few teachers who are not heavily committed to other learning areas.

SOSE on the timetable

Year 7 (core) 3 periods
Year 8 (core) 2.5 periods
Year 9 (elective only) minimum of 5 periods in one semester with the possibility of more if students elect to take more units
Year 10 (core) 3 periods (choice of semester electives) 5 periods

Integrating materials into existing subjects

A major thrust of the Mount Erin response to the Discovering Democracy materials was to use it as a source of ideas for student activities and resources for class use. The year seven implementation is typical of the process:

Year 7 has a cross strand SOSE unit called ‘Conflict and Cooperation’ and a history unit called ‘Ancient Communities’. The Mount Erin case study shows how selected components of the ‘Discovering Democracy’ materials can be integrated into existing subjects.

‘Conflict and Cooperation’

The resources which have been used for this subject have, in the past, been drawn from a variety of sources including textbooks, newspapers and journals, videos and pop songs.

Having unpacked the Discovering Democracy kit, the year 7 teachers soon realised that the materials prepared for the two of the units were very relevant to Conflict and Cooperation:

The teachers then selected activities and resources to suit the unit, making minor changes to their structure of the subject. As a consequence Conflict and Cooperation now uses many of the multimedia, text and charts supplied in the Discovering Democracy kit. The ‘new look’ subject will be introduced in 1999 and the teachers are confident that the students will react positively.

Ancient Communities’

The year 7 SOSE teachers found elements of the unit ‘Should the People Rule’ which would integrate with existing year 7 ‘Ancient Communities’. The new approach within the DD unit enlivens the study of Ancient Athens with the focus ‘what was it like to live in Ancient Athens?’ This section of the work incorporates a poster, interview and debate.

The same approach has been used at most levels in the school, in particular

Year Level Existing SOSE Unit DD activities/materials adapted from
8 Medieval History (Knights and Castles) Parliament vs Monarch
10 20th Century Australian History Making a Nation. A democracy destroyed (Nazi Germany) Human Rights
11 VCE Legal Studies Who Should Rule? Making a Nation
12 VCE Outdoor Education Getting Things Done

Integrating units into existing subjects is an approach that appeals to many of the teachers who attend SMR meetings. Prominent amongst the resources and activities likely to be treated in this way are:

Implementing whole Discovering Democracy Units

Most network leaders felt that it was too early to expect many schools to implement entire units. The materials reached schools in November 1998, too late to be fully incorporated into the forward planning for 1999. It is likely that one or two of the units will be offered in its entirety as an elective at year 10 in 2000. The most probable units are

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Diamond Valley Secondary College


DVSC has a long standing commitment to civics education. While the resources and planning are focused upon the SOSE faculty, the school has an active whole school strategy in place. This strategy focuses on citizenship activities related to

Over the last two years the year 9 program in particular has been developed to include

The Discovering Democracy Kit is seen as a timely, quality resource which strengthens the civics program, enabling teachers to add variety and depth to SOSE courses. For example the History teachers have integrated elements of the unit %%% at year 7, especially enthusiastic about the Athens vs Sparta activities.

At year 9 level the SOSE teachers have integrated the unit ‘Democratic Struggles’ into the core studies, selecting materials and pedagogies to fit the existing course. Teachers report that the structure of the units is innovative, that it encourages them to focus on the way their students learn, rather than on assembling resources and lessons for civics topics.

Teachers appreciate the design of the pages, which allow them to photocopy and deliver materials in a short time frame. Teachers are also finding it easy to set work and assess outcomes through the use of the kit. Some of them have experimented with the CD based materials with positive feedback from students.

The network leader believes that, from a strategic point of view, the effective use of computers in civics education may provide a lever at many schools which may otherwise not prioritise civics education. While largely positive and supportive, there is some resistance to change at the school. The barriers relate to the placement of civics in the curriculum. In an overcrowded curriculum, some teachers inevitably see strengthening of the civics program as a threat to their own teaching area.

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Westall Secondary College

Population 500

Westall is a secondary school on the middle Melbourne suburb of Bentleigh. It has 500 students who are largely from Non English Speaking backgrounds. Many of these come from countries where there is no vote.

There is a strong need, therefore, to develop literacies and competencies in areas of civics and citizenship. The Discovering Democracy kit has been unpacked in both the history and commerce faculties. Elements have been used at years 7 – 10. Teachers have attended some local network meetings, as well as participating in an on line chat group organised by Angela Dawson (network leader) last year.

At years 7 & 8 SOSE

The school offers a term unit at years 7 and 8 called ‘Local government and the first settlers’. Teachers started using ‘bits and pieces’ of the Discovering Democracy kit in 1999. One teacher, Jacqui Wright, believes that the kit is one of the best ‘user friendly’ resources available. Teaches who have tried elements in their classes report that the students respond well, and that it is taking them into new areas of pedagogy with its innovative activities.

Given the low levels of English language skills, the teachers have tended to use elements of the Primary Discovering Democracy units. Teachers and students appreciate the use of graphics and images throughout the DD Kit. In conjunction with the primary video (which has been received better than the secondary one) the materials are a valuable mixture of graphic, concept and language content which can be used to support the development of language skills as well as civics and citizenship education and competencies.

Year 7 and 8 students have started using the CD ROM, especially the first fleet activities. The school has computer laboratories which the SOSE teachers find hard to have timetabled for SOSE, however two of the teachers have been running the CD on their laptop, with small groups, and the students have been very responsive.

At Years 9 & 10

At years 9 & 10 the school has a legal studies type unit which focuses on the Courts and Parliament. This is a core unit of three forty-eight minute lessons per week. Here again the teachers have selected graphics reach materials suitable for the levels that they are working with. Two units in particular have proved useful so far

While the year 9 & 10 unit has been in place for some years, SOSE teachers feel that the Discovering Democracy kit enhances the accessibility of the key learning. Again Commerce and History teachers report that they are using novel approaches to lessons which suit the content and the learning styles of their students.

The future

Issues currently focus on accessing computers on a more regular basis, and in strengthening civics and citizenship education at years 7 & 8. There is already a range of environment and peer support programs in place at the school. It is hoped that some of these may provide a springboard for the development of active citizenship programs at the school. IN conjunction with these developments SOSE teachers plan to integrate more of the Discovering Democracy materials into the central curriculum next year.

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Bentleigh Catholic Secondary College

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart is a Catholic secondary school with a stable population of 700 students. It has a ‘cross curriculum’ approach to Civics Education which currently takes place on the year 9 and 10 year levels.

The Discovering Committee has been unpacked with all staff, in a one and a half hour professional development session. To this point the teachers have used elements of the CD ROM in the Consumer Education elective at year 9 & 10. Teachers have also used activities from the Unit ‘The People Make a Nation’.

These events take place in a context within which the school is currently reviewing the delivery of Civics and Citizenship education throughout the school. It is being guided in this by 10 fundamental values canvassed by an educationalist in the early 1970s. It is anticipated that an audit of current practice will use these value/moral issues as the basis for provision of Civics Education into the future. The ten moral/value positions are centred around the following key topics:

Ten values for Civics and Citizenship Education

Justice: What is Justice?

Social Justice
How should society treat its citizens
Justice System
How are we governed? Who decides the rules and how are they enforced?

Freedom: What is freedom?

What does it mean to be free?
What types of freedom are there
What are the responsibilities and obligations of freedom

Diversity: What is diversity?

Are all people equal?
Is there inequality?


How are people different?
How are systems of government different
Do people have different points of view?
How is diversity accomodated?

Authority: What is authority?

Who are authorities?
What do authorities do?
What structures and institutiions exist as authorities

Privacy: What is Privacy

Why is privacy important?
What systems exist to ensure privacy?

Due Process: What is Due Process

Is everyone entitled to due process?
How does due process work?

Participation: What is Participation?

How do people participate in society?
Why is participation in society important?

Personal Obligation to maintain the common good

What is the common good?
How do people contribute to the common good?
How do people contribute to the common good

International Human Rights: What are international human rights?

What are human rights
Why are human rights important?

Using the 10 value/moral issues to help build a civics program

The school community has adopted these 10 value/moral questions/themes as its guiding principles in the construction of a new whole school approach to civics and citizenship education 7 –10. As a result of work so far the school has drawn up five criteria for selecting materials and establishing civics and citizenship programs in the near future:

The program should

An audit grid with the following column headings has been drawn up and will be completed over the next few months:

  1. The ten values
  2. Where is it currently provided? (subject, year level)
  3. When (Unit title, term)
  4. How? (specific example of classroom practice)
  5. Where could this be included in the new structure?

Integrating Discovering Democracy materials

Michelle Cotter is coordinating the review of the civics program and is optimistic that it will result in the adaptation of many of the activities and resources provided in the Discovering Democracy Kit. At present she is especially focused on the CD ROM.

Aspects of the new program will be designed this first half of 1999, and implemented as a pilot program in the second semester in half of the year 9 & 10 groups. It is likely that this new unit will be largely based upon ‘’The people Make a Nation".

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Arthurs Creek Primary School

Population 45
Contact: Carol Cardile (Principal)

The Arthurs Creek Primary School is a small 123 year old school in a rural area 40 kms North of Melbourne. It is divided into two classes:

Each year the staff audit their programs against the Curriculum Standards Framework to check for balance, gaps and overlap. In late 1998 this audit revealed a lack of civics education in both classes. Therefore they spent much of the Christmas holidays working out ways to strengthen civics education, and found the DD kit to contain almost everything they needed.

Teachers were especially impressed by the fact that the kit lends itself to applications across many Key Learning Areas, especially

The video clips, CDs and clear posters also attracted teachers and were eventually used extensively throughout the implementation. The black masters were easy to use, varied and encouraged participation and student involvement at each stage.

Therefore the staff decided to develop a unit at levels 3 & 4 called Discovering Democracy, which was delivered during term 1 1999. Because it covered such a breadth of outcomes, 6 – 8 hours of class time was given over to DD each week.

Discovering Democracy – A unit of study levels 3 and 4

The Discovering Democracy kit was examined and the key focus questions and topics weighed against the needs and abilities of the students. As a result the following content areas were mapped against CSF levels 3 & 4:


Level 4

Level 5

  Parliament vs Monarchy Stories of the people and rulers
1 Absolute power Who rules?
2 What is a parliament Should one person rule?
3 Divine right/citizen’s rights Should the people rule?
4 Power from monarch to the people Who rules in Australia
5 British influence on democracy How should a nation be rules
  The People Make a Nation We Remember
6 States and Territories Australian symbols
7 Federation Democratic nation – symbols
8 People make a nation Commemorating significant lives and events
9 Federal government Changing symbols
10 Bringing it all together Relevant symbols today

Assessment was based upon

The unit was completed at the end of term one. It was judged to be an outstanding success. Students became engaged in group, technology and workbook activities. They found many aspects of the work challenging but rewarding. The class become interested in the idea that Australia was not always a ‘country’ and their motivation grew from there. The principal reports that the use of the kit ‘opened it (civics and citizenship) up to them in a way that they can understand’

Teachers also found it the materials easy to use, acting in part as professional development in terms of pedagogy and content. The activities were varied and allowed teachers to retain a focus on the development of

Teachers report that students were absorbed totally in the design of a new parliament house, as well as the roll plays associated with various leadership styles. The latter was of great benefit in helping students evaluate the merits of Democracy compared to other kinds of government.

As a result of the term of work, students have internalised many of the concepts and principals of democratic and political life. They are taking an on going interest in State and Federal political activities, showing a mature understanding of issues and their context.

Teachers note that parents have noticed the change in their children’s outlook. Students are taking an added interest in the television news and newspaper reports. They are more active in family discussions that impinge upon civics and citizenship activity, and are eagerly anticipating a state or federal election.

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Edithvale Primary School

Population: 535
Contact Christine Smith

Edithvale was especially early in its uptake of the Discovering Democracy kit. There was a presentation made to all staff shortly after the release of the materials in November 1998. The presentation led onto planning for a special activities day on Australia Day 1999, and a reorganisation of thematic work on the study of Government scheduled for grade six term 1 1999.

Australia Day Activities

Staff were encouraged to use some ideas from the unit ‘Australian Symbols’. The day was aimed at producing symbols such as a coat of arms, which were then to be displayed around the school. 8 of the 19 grades participated in the event, which produced a variety of visible statements about Australian cultural values.

Grade Six Federation Studies

During the fist term in 1999 two grade six teachers implemented the unit on government based, in part, upon the The People Make a Nation from the DD unit ##. The unit was to run all term, integrated with English, totalling four hours per week, as well as some excursions to

The teachers retained the structure and organisation that they had used in the past, slotting in activities where appropriate. The focus was upon Australian Federation and the centenary celebrations in 2001. Students examined the advantages and disadvantages of Federation. They were particularly attracted to activities such as ‘decide for yourself’ and the materials presented in the video.


The new components grade six unit was received well by teachers and students. Teachers found that they were starting to extend the ways they taught in this area in new and innovative ways. Students have taken a more active interest in the traditional mock election and the Student Representative Council. The unit seemed to happen more at the level of the students and the methodology suited the teachers who were at once freed up from some preparation and enthused by the positive student response.

Term II has seen obvious results as students study under the ‘earn and learn’ program. Students are also researching ‘What makes a good citizen’, finding it easier to access and understand information from the media in general, newspapers in particular.

The Future

Teachers are already discussing the upcoming Republic Referendum, and the students are more interested in the government and activities of other countries. The year 3 teachers are currently reviewing their civics program with a view to integrating Discovering Democracy materials next year.

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