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Are Collectivism and Individualism Opposites?

Create a visual representation that accurately illustrates the relationships among individualism, collectivism and the common good.

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

Students assess the extent to which individualism and collectivism promote the common good by deciding how best to represent, visually, the relationships between these concepts based on an examination of various individual and collective actions.

Introduce key concepts
Introduce the concept of common good by presenting a short reading from a news story describing an act of philanthropy or government initiative benefiting the common good (see References). Guide students in a discussion about what may have motivated the act: a concern for the interests of a group of people or a concern for how the philanthropist might benefit.

Provide students with examples of the concepts of collectivism and individualism, indicating that both collectivists and individualists believe that their ideology best serves the common good. Develop a common working understanding of each concept. The following statements and questions could be posed to assess student understanding of the concepts:

  • Give an example of how an individual action could benefit the common good.
  • Give an example of how a collective action could benefit the common good.
  • What are the characteristics of a person who primarily values individualism?
  • What are the characteristics of a person who primarily values collectivism?
  • Give examples from your community of individual/collective actions that promoted the common good.

Invite students to consider the degree to which the principles/values of individualism oppose the principles/values of collectivism and the degree to which, if any, they share common ideals.

Rank actions that reflect collectivist or individualist principles or values
Offer students examples of actions that reflect collectivist or individualist principles (30-1) or values (30-2).

Ask students to rank each action on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 represents “only individualist principles” (values in 30-2) and 5 represents “only collectivist principles” (values in 30-2). To start the discussion, provide this list of actions:

  • reselling concert tickets to your friends for more than you paid
  • helping at the volleyball tournament for bonus physical education marks
  • selling your notes from Biology 30 to a Grade 11 student who will be taking the course next year
  • volunteering to be your class representative on student council
  • running for student council president
  • volunteering to help students in Grade 9 who are having difficulties in math
  • providing government energy rebate cheques to Albertans
  • making a tax-deductible donation to the local homeless shelter
  • lobbying the government to gain access to protected wilderness areas for a group of all-terrain vehicle users
  • interning “enemy aliens” during the First and Second World Wars
  • requiring conscription or compulsory military service in Canada.

After students complete the ranking process, ask them to share and discuss the placement of each of the actions. Develop common understandings for each concept. Following this discussion, invite students to make changes to their rankings to reflect new understandings of the concepts.

Use a Venn diagram to represent relationships among concepts
Direct students to create a Venn diagram that accurately illustrates the relationships among individualism, collectivism and the common good (see diagram below). For example, if an action clearly reflects the principles or values of individualism and does not appear to support the common good, it would be placed on the right side of the diagram.

In addition, or alternatively, students could write statements summarizing the relationships.

For additional information, see Venn Diagrams (Support Material).

Create a visual representation
Invite students to create a visual response to the question “To what extent do individualism and collectivism both contribute to the common good?” Responses could take the form of a poster, illustrated continuum or graphic story.

Suggest to students that criteria for a visual representation should include the following:

  • catchy: grabs the audience’s attention
  • concise: presents information in a nutshell
  • convincing: makes viewers believe that the information on the visual is important and reliable
  • comprehensive: accurately represents their interpretation of the relationship among individualism, collectivism and common good.

You may want to refer to the criteria and guidelines for effective visual presentations found in Creating Persuasive and Effective Visuals (Modelling the Tools).

In addition, you may want to refer to Justifying My Choice (Support Material) to help students present ideas and consider other perspectives.

Last updated: January 30, 2009 | (Revision History)
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