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Determining Relative Importance

This support material is incorporated into critical challenges at grade 4, however, it can be adapted for use at all grade levels.

The following documents can be adapted and re-saved for your needs.

Identifying Important Elements Word
The chart helps students consider the relative importance of various components or factors found in products, options or steps. It can be used to identify the most important natural resources found in common household or classroom products, the most important basic foods in a healthy diet, or the most influential factors in the steps leading to a historical event. In completing the chart, students identify the relevant products or options and then specify the components found in each product or option. Objects in a classroom e.g., chalk, desks, pencils and pens are composed of various natural resources including wood, oils and minerals. Similarly, the incidents leading to Confederation e.g., Upper and Lower Canada rebellions, Fenian raids, and American expansion in the West were influenced by factors such fear of invasion, trade concerns, self determination and cultural dominance.

Students determine the importance of each component part by noting its frequency as a factor; e.g., in how many pre-Confederation events was fear of invasion a factor? And by judging the importance of the product or event to the overall result; e.g., how important was the Rebellion in Lower Canada in the eventual decision to unite the colonies?

To use this chart, students:

  • list various products, options or steps in the left-hand column; e.g., products found in the home include sofas, tables, rugs and computers
  • classify all products, options or steps according to their importance, using a three-point rating scale; e.g., 3 is very important, 2 is quite important, 1 is not important
  • list the components or factors to be considered in the top row; e.g., household products are typically derived from natural resources such as wood, animals, minerals and oil
  • check off which components or factors are present in each product or item; e.g., desks are typically composed of minerals and wood
  • multiply each component or factor by the importance rating; e.g., if a desk was judged to be quite important each of it components would be assigned two points
  • record the sum for each component or factor at the bottom of the corresponding column
  • identify the component(s) or factor(s) with the highest total
  • complete the reflection stems at the bottom of the chart.

If desired, compile individual totals on a master chart. Invite the class to discuss the findings.

Direct a discussion regarding the difficulty with simply using the total number of points to determine relative importance. For example, if a high quantity of unimportant products such as plastic ornaments were listed, the component resource(s) of those products may have higher total(s) than something such as water that we could not do without. Encourage students to weigh the total points with the relative importance of the products when making their final decision.

Assessing the Importance Ratings Word
An assessment rubric is available for this chart.


Adapted from Critical Challenges Across the Curriculum series. Permission granted by The Critical Thinking Consortium for use by Alberta teachers.

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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