Introducing the Fairness Ideal
to Students

The Fairness module can be thought of as an ongoing inquiry into the nature of students' disposition to seek and develop understanding and appreciation of the complexities of fairness. Initial work in the module involves uncovering what students already know about fairness, how they go about making judgments about fairness, as well as their awareness of various types of fairness situations. This early work provides useful information from which to build on throughout the module.

Thinking about Thinking Activities

These activities ask students to identify their current ideas and thinking about fairness. Students frequently know a lot about fairness and have very strong opinions. These activities will let them bring those ideas to the surface for individual reflection, group discussion, and your own instructional pre-assessment. You may use one or all of these initial Thinking about Thinking activities. While the order isn't critical, many teachers like to start with the concept map activity to uncover students' ideas before any discussion. Others like to begin with a whole class discussion to first warm students up.

A Concept Map of Fairness. What is Fairness? What does it mean to be fair? What's your idea of actions and processes that lead to figuring out if something is fair? This introductory activity is designed to raise these issues for discussion in class as well as to provide a glimpse into students' thinking about Fairness. Students first construct a concept map of fairness individually. These can then be used as the basis for a class discussion and/or in the construction of a larger, whole-class concept map.

How Unfair? The activity asks students to generate examples of situations they encountered that were unfair, rate how unfair they considered the situation, and explain their reasoning. While this activity involves writing, it can be done very successfully as a one-on-one interview with a student. Although interviews are very time consuming, primary teachers might want to consider doing a few interviews to see what they reveal about students' thinking.

A Fairness Discussion.This activity is designed as a way to collect data on students' thinking about fairness, their strategies for figuring out if something is fair, and what questions they might have about fairness through the an open-ended discussion. This works well with younger students or when you don't want to use a written task. The challenge is to create a record of the conversation to refer back to it later and reflect back on what kinds of things students brought up in the discussion.

Introducing the Fairness Map

After students’ initial ideas, questions, understandings, and concerns about fairness have been uncovered, you will want to present the Fairness Map to the class. The map becomes both a visual and conceptual anchor for you and your students throughout the module by identifying the key thinking moves involved in determining fairness.

The map becomes both a visual and conceptual anchor for you and your students throughout the module by identifying the key thinking moves involved in determining fairness. The fairness routines also connect to the areas on the fairness map.

The map consists of five areas or key moves for “Figuring out Fair”:

  • Get clear about things
  • Identify complications
  • Explore different viewpoints
  • Decide what's important
  • Consider what you might do.

A question that helps to make each of these areas more actionable is also included on the map. As a class, you may want to add to these initial questions to develop additional prompts for thinking.

One way to present the Fairness Map is by connecting it to students' ideas and thoughts about fairness that emerged from their own fairness maps. Tell students that these five areas represent some key actions people take when they are grappling with an issue of fairness. However, additional strategies and actions can also be useful. You may want to ask students to think about how their ideas link to the six areas of the Fairness Map. Tell students that you will post the map on the wall so that they and you can refer to it often. Tell students that you will be talking about fairness and using the map in future lessons.