Causal Models and Identity

As we continue to explore integrative and design thinking in grade 7, we’ve shifted our focus to Media Literacy and will develop understanding of these thinking tools through the lens of this mandatory component of the Ontario curriculum.

Last year we began our exploration of  The Constructed Teen with the question, “What is Media?”  This year we began with the idea of identity.  What is identity? What has shaped and influenced us to become the people we are today?  Students were then asked to build causal models of their identities. What an interesting task this turned out to be. Several students had no idea where to begin. They had never previously thought about these questions. One student sat with only a name on the paper for the entire period saying, “I have no idea why I am the person I am.” Other students dove in right away and began constructing models of their identities.

On the second day, I now had partially completed samples to share with the class. This helped a few get started. An entire day to think about the questions also helped. Some students chose to restart their models. Other students required several sheets taped together as their models expanded.

What I noticed was how different this task was from the work we had done in the fall on autobiographies. The thinking was different. The depth of exploration of  personal stories was different. The ability to build connections between elements of their lives led to much deeper understanding of who they are as people compared to simply creating linear narratives. What emerged through their work was insight.

“I  never realized how much my dance teacher has influenced me.”  Students wrote profoundly about parents, step-parents, family,  friends, coaches, places and events. I think many parents will be deeply moved by what their children have written. For others, family is notably absent from their models.

What this approach allows is flexibility for learners. Students are able to put on paper the models they have built in their heads in ways that make sense to them. It’s so revealing – systematic thinkers become visible; global thinkers become visible; deep thinkers become visible; limited thinkers become visible, detailed thinkers become visible; visual thinkers become visible,  elegant thinkers become visible. This approach also encourages complexity. Students are free to move in any direction and can go deeply into ideas to build connections.

I will not be posting pictures of this work as it is intensely personal.


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