In this challenge, students learn about the role of the Ombudsman through an examination of video and text information online.
Introduce the concept of fairness
Using caution regarding potentially sensitive information, begin a discussion with students about the concept of fairness by asking them to identity specific events in their lives—at school or at home, or involving sports and friendship—that are fair and not fair. Invite students to share their ideas with a partner before reporting to the class. Use students’ contributions to explore the idea of fairness. Ask students to consider if a referee—a neutral person who knows the rules—would promote fairness in any given situation. Ideas of fairness may include being impartial, evenhanded, just, balanced, concerned for all sides.
Conduct research on the role of the Ombudsman
Suggest that students use the background materials (see References) to research the following questions:
- What is the role of the Ombudsman in Alberta?
- How similar is the role of the Ombudsman to that of a referee?
- What are the Ombudsman’s areas of responsibility?
You may wish to consider adapting the charts and strategies for Collecting Information (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.
To meet diverse learning needs of students, consider directing or assisting the research activities.
Explore the concept of refereeing fairness: The role of the Ombudsman
Have students view “Understanding the Role of the Ombudsman – Comic Strip” (see References) to identify specific incidences of “unfairness” that occur throughout the story. Students can record the incidents of unfairness, the involvement of an ombudsman and evidence to support involvement or noninvolvement.
You may wish to consider adapting the charts and strategies for Supporting Conclusions (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.
Determine the criteria for effectiveness of the Ombudsman in dealing with unfairness
As a class, develop criteria for determining the effectiveness of the role of the Ombudsman in ensuring that the provincial government treats citizens fairly. Criteria may include:
- meets the needs of the citizens bringing the complaint
- successfully resolves the conflict
- reaches a decision that balances the wishes of parties involved.
Take part in a U-shaped discussion
Invite students to discuss the extent to which the Ombudsman’s role is effective in ensuring that the provincial government treats citizens fairly. You may want to organize students into a U-shape. Students who believe that the Ombudsman’s role is very effective may locate to themselves at one end of the U; students holding a strongly opposing view may locate themselves at the other end. Those students who believe that the role of the Ombudsman has a mixed effect may locate themselves somewhere along the middle of the U.
You may wish to adapt one of the charts and strategies in U-shaped Discussion (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.
Extension: Beyond the role of the Ombudsman
As a possible extension activity, invite students to brainstorm other methods of ensuring fairness in dealings with governments; e.g., contacting their MLA, organizing a petition, etc.
Extension: Is having a referee the most effective method of resolution?
As an alternative to having students take part in the U-shaped Discussion activity, you may wish to ask students to decide whether having a referee (Ombudsman) is likely to be more effective than other dispute resolution methods involving government. In this case, students could create pro and con charts for each of several methods and rate them. Also, you might change the criteria to include:
- respects government’s need for confidentially
- avoids unnecessary political embarrassment
- secures win–win solutions.
You may wish to adapt one of the charts and strategies in Rating Options (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.