Students examine the role of political parties, the media and lobby groups in influencing decision making in Canada's federal system by creating a pie chart showing the relative influence of each of these forces in shaping governmental policies.
Establish criteria for determining influence
Ask students to suggest ways that either the media or lobby groups influence our political system. Review elements of an effective democracy, e.g., justice, equity, freedoms, representation, to help students identify criteria. Ask questions, such as these:
- Do the media or lobby groups enhance participation in the democratic process?
- Do they increase accountability of political leaders?
- Do they ensure that the interest of the people remains paramount?
Examine case studies
Assemble several case studies and information on the influence of political parties, the media and lobby groups on democratic decision making. Case studies should include brief readings, documentaries and news reports, including electronically accessed sources (see References). Select issues where the party platforms, popular media support and lobbyists' efforts sought to move the government in different directions.
Consider using case studies on the work of the Friends of the CBC to increase funding, the drug industry's lobbying for longer patent rights, the pork producers' alliances for marketing and sustainability, Greenpeace's work to promote environmental issues, campaigns by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), lobbying by the tobacco industry, and advocacy by the John Howard Society and Elizabeth Fry Society (see References).
Ask each group to use advanced search skills to research case study issues. Ask students to assemble relevant information regarding the degree to which each of the three forces impacted on the decision reached by the government in their assigned issue. Each group should create an annotated reference list that includes the five most useful and relevant sources used.
Create pie charts indicating influences
Ask each group to use the evidence gathered to create a pie chart that accurately represents the extent to which each group influenced or bears some responsibility for the final decision. Criteria for an accurate representation may include:
- is consistent with the evidence
- considers the role of all three forces on the final decision
- considers the degree to which any extraneous forces may have impacted the final decision.
For more information on pie charts, see Creating a Pie Chart (Support Material).
Share pie charts with the class
Ask the groups to present their findings to the rest of the class. You may wish to remind students that an effective presentation is informative, engaging and interactive.
Assess the impact of the groups
Following the sharing of the pie charts invite students to create, individually, an overall assessment of the extent of the influence of the three forces in federal decision making.
To meet diverse learning needs, provide opportunities for students to use various formats to present the individual assessments. Formats may include written response, pie graphs, mind maps, voice recordings or other formats.
To structure and assess this activity, see Rating Impact Chart in Rating Options (Support Material).