Constructing a Concept Map of Fairness

Purpose: What will I learn about students' thinking from this?

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, their questions about fairness, and the types of situations they may recognize as being unfair.

Launch: How do I begin the activity?

Ask students to make a concept map or mind map that captures their ideas about Fairness. The concept map template provides a prompt for students to help them get started. You can read this to students and mention it as one way they might approach constructing their maps. The prompt is placed at the bottom of the page because it is not an explicit direction that students have to follow. Some will pick up on the prompts and others will not. By keeping the task open-ended, you will find out more about what is important to students.

Follow up: How do I conclude the activity?

After you have given students time to create their individual maps, you might want to put them in small groups. In groups they can share their ideas and create a larger mind map by sharing and discussing their ideas. Alternatively, you can have a class discussion in which you collect and chart students' ideas.

Many teachers like to introduce the Fairness Map after having students complete their own maps. You can present the Fairness map to the class by connecting it to students' ideas and thoughts about Fairness. Tell students that these six 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.

Be sure and collect student's individual maps to look at and discuss. Display the six components of the map on the walls of the classroom where it can be seen. Whenever possible, look for ways of connecting class activities and assignments to the components of the map so that students can get a better feel for each area.

Timing: How much time should I allow?

To complete the individual maps, students will need about 10-15 minutes. To have a class discussion or create group maps, you will need 20-40 minutes.

Assessment: What should I look for in students' responses?

Constructing a concept map of fairness is not an easy task. Don't be surprised if students' maps are sparse and contain a lot of situation specific references. Some specifics to look for:

  • Notice the language students use to talk about fairness.
  • Review students responses to see what factors they consider in deciding if something is or isn't fair? Do they go beyond personal needs and wants? Do they look at other perspectives? Do they see things in black and white?
  • Identify what kinds of issues and circumstances confound students and make it difficult for them to make judgments about fairness? You might want to look for these types of situation to confront throughout the module.
  • What questions and puzzles do students have? What issues most concern them?


(This will download a blank template for the concept map that can be used in your classroom)