Students explore their own worldview by completing a questionnaire on key assumptions about the world. By assessing the accuracy of this profile, students match their stated answers with their actual behaviour.
It is important that students show sensitivity to others when sharing their personal views on issues such as human nature, equality of people and individual responsibilities to others. The objective is to encourage honest discussion without offending others.
Complete personal worldview questionnaires
Before discussing the concept of worldview, invite students to respond to the statements in Personal Worldview Questionnaire found in Exploring Worldview (Support Material). The purpose is to identify value positions or assumptions in key elements of their personal worldview.
For more information about these key elements, see Concept of Worldview (Background Information).
Share personal answers
Arrange for students to share their answers with several other students. Invite students to confirm their understanding of the meaning of each element and to discuss any areas where their answers differ.
Introduction to concept: Worldview
The social studies program of studies defines worldview as "a collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or group; the lens through which the world is viewed by an individual or group; the overall perspective from which the world is interpreted."
Explain to students that their answers to the questionnaire reflect, to some extent, their worldview, which is their own distinctive way of looking at the world. Indicate that worldview refers to the framework or lens through which an individual or group interprets and interacts with the world. A worldview creates a context for everything we do.
For more information about worldview elements, see Concept of Worldview (Background Information) and Clues for Identifying Worldviews (Background Information) found in Exploring Worldview (Support Material).
Suggest that various societies have developed their own ways of looking at the world and of answering important questions such as:
- Are human beings naturally good or evil?
- Do some people deserve special privileges?
- Do human beings have an obligation to preserve the natural world?
- What is the basis for our moral beliefs?
Examine a literary character’s worldview
You may want to use a literary character as an example for discussing personal worldview. Select a character likely to be known by all students, such as Hermonie Granger or Harry Potter in Harry Potter or Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings. Alternatively, present a short story with a well-defined main character. Students may answer the questionnaire from the point of view of one of these characters in order to determine that fictional person’s worldview.
Investigate likely behaviour for a given worldview
Draw attention to the relationship between individual worldviews and how people live their lives. For example, assume someone believes that human beings are naturally evil. What will be that person's likely pattern of behaviour? Is that person more likely to be trusting and kind or suspicious and self-serving?
Develop the discussion by presenting scenarios in which a person's actions might be influenced by a person’s worldview. For example, imagine that a person believes in the inherent goodness of people. How will that worldview impact behaviour in related situations; e.g., meeting a new person, deciding on punishment for a crime? Ask students to identify the likely responses in each scenario if an individual believes that people are either naturally good or naturally evil. Record the predicted behaviours in the relevant column, as suggested in the following example.
Are People Naturally Good or Naturally Evil?
Likely actions if one believes that people tend to be naturally evil
Likely actions if one believes that people tend to be naturally good
Meeting a new person
may be suspicious of others
is less likely to make friends
makes friends relatively easily
often takes the initiative to meet new people
tends to trust people
Deciding on a punishment for a crime
is likely to place emphasis on
preventing the individual from
committing more crimes
is likely to favour jail terms
may doubt that individuals
can reform or change
may be more willing to seek to help the individual reform—likely to favour rehabilitation
may trust that individuals can change
Invite students to repeat this process with other scenarios; e.g., entering into an agreement with others, setting rules for teenagers, loaning someone money.
Identify predicted behaviour for each element
In groups or as a class, identify four or five relevant scenarios for each of the other elements of a worldview. Ask students to work in groups to speculate on the likely behaviour for each scenario. Arrange for students to share their findings about the typical behaviour associated with each element of a worldview. Develop a chart summarizing this information. Students may wish to refer to Concept of Worldview (Background Information).
Reassess initial worldview questionnaire
Invite students to reassess their initial answers on the questionnaire. Students may refer to the chart summarizing likely behaviour for each element of a worldview. Does their actual behaviour conform to the initial profile of their personal worldview or are there contradictions or inconsistencies? In light of this comparison, invite students to clarify or modify the profile of their personal worldview.
Extension: Explore influences on individual worldviews
Invite students to consider the factors that shape their worldviews. Begin by brainstorming possible sources of individual worldviews; e.g., family traditions, religious beliefs, media, peer groups. Ask students to select the five most important influences and create a pie chart to represent the relative importance of the five factors. After students make individual pie charts, create an aggregated pie chart for the whole class to show the collective influence of various factors.