Explore decision making

Explore various forms of decision-making in your classroom with this activity. Investigate majority rule, executive, consensus, autocracy, and the power of veto.

Students
Years 5 to 12
Duration
1 lesson

Activity

Decisions for ourselves and others

  1. Divide the class into pairs. Show students photos of strawberries, a ham salad sandwich and a chocolate cupcake.
  2. Ask pairs to discuss which snack they would like for themselves, and to explain how they arrived at this decision. Ask the students to decide:
    • Which would they prefer as a snack, and why.
    • What snack they would provide for their pair, and explain how they arrived at this decision.
    • What snack they would provide for the whole class, and to explain how they arrived at this decision.
    • What snack they would provide for the class every week at school and to explain how they arrived at this decision.
  3. Discuss whether students have different answers and why this might be. Did the students make different decisions for themselves than they did for others? Why might this be? Explain that representation involves making decisions for other people.

Types of decision making

  1. Ask the class to come up with a practical idea which might improve your school in some way, but which might not be popular with all students, for example:
    • No unhealthy food in the school canteen
    • First fifteen minutes of every school day is for exercise and stretching
    • Students should have to wear school uniform/stop wearing school uniform.
  2. Tell the students that this is an important decision and that there are a number of ways that they could make this decision. Use the Decision making table to tell the class about the 4 different decision-making methods they will undertake.
  3. Ask students to use each of the 4 decision making methods to decide the outcome. Record the decision made using each method.
  4. Tell the class that as a teacher you have a right to veto any decisions that were made. Decide whether you would have vetoed any of these decisions and give your reasons for doing so.
  5. Discuss the following questions with your class:
    • Which form of decision-making was most efficient?
    • Was it difficult to reach a consensus? Why? What difference would 60 students or 120 students make to this method?
    • Which form of decision-making was most fair? Least fair?
    • What justification might the vetoer or autocrat have for their roles?
  6. Tell the students that the Australian Parliament uses majority rule rather than consensus for making decisions. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this method.