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Resources - Decision Making in the Humanities
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Target Grades: Grades 6 - 12


Students make decisions in humanities-related career scenarios. In the process, students learn about the factors that influence decision making in history. They also are exposed to career possibilities in history and social studies. This lesson can be used as stand-alone enrichment or as part of a history decision-making unit.


To introduce decision making as a theme in history and social studies.

Lesson Outcomes

Students will be able to:

  1. Identify four influences on historical decision making.
  2. Make choices in real-life decision-making scenarios.
  3. Relate factors in historical decision making to influences on personal decisions.

Suggested Products for Evaluation

  • Homework assignment: Tough Decisions


  1. Access to Choices Explorer
  2. Print copies of Choices Explorer's decision-making activities from the following career descriptions:
    • Politician
    • Foreign Correspondent
    • Currency Trader
    • Historian

  3. A recent newspaper.

Lesson Activities

  1. Bring in a recent newspaper. Point out that all of the headlines are products of decisions made by individuals or groups of individuals. Ask students to determine who, or more specifically, what role made the decisions to cause this event in history.

  2. Inform students that today's lesson focuses on the impact of decision making on history. Huge events that shape people's lives are simply a series of decisions made (or not made) by people in various roles. Hand out to each student a copy of the Politician decision-making scenario from Choices Explorer.

  3. Have students read the scenario. Once they have decided what they would do individually, place students into groups of three and have them discuss the best course of action for the politician. Would they respond to the gun control wishes of the letter-writing constituents or take a poll of the community?

  4. Once students have discussed the choices in small groups, ask the whole class if decisions on gun control can effect the history of a country. Point out that decisions made by many individuals on many topics have shaped the laws that govern the way we live.

  5. Decision making throughout history has shaped who we are and how we perceive the world. Explain that history's decisions have been influenced by four key factors. They are:

    • Public Opinion -- what the majority thinks.
    • Economics -- the financial circumstance surrounding a decision.
    • Emotions -- the emotional state of the decision-maker in each situation.
    • Individual Perspective -- the opinion of the decision-maker.

  6. Point out that the Politician's choice in the scenario demonstrates an example of the first factor that influences historical decisions: public opinion. Tell the class that the other three types of influences (economic, emotions and individual perspective) will be featured in the next three scenarios.

  7. Hand out a copy of the Currency Trader, Foreign Correspondent and Historian decision-making scenarios from Choices Explorer to each group. Have each group read the story and then discuss the best decision, in the group's opinion.

  8. Review with the whole class the choices they would make. Then tell them what the person really did in the story. Briefly discuss the economic influences on the Currency Trader's choice, the emotional influences on the Foreign Correspondent's choice and the individual perspective influences on the Historian's choice. Ask the class to identify ways our history and our perspective of history has been influenced by decision making.

  9. Point out to the class the importance of decision-making skills in their own lives. Obviously, the choices each of us make are tough -- we must try to deal with the influences of public opinion, economics (money), emotions and individual perspective. These are most certainly influences that shape the decisions we make about our own career futures.

  10. End the class by asking students to make an individual decision. If the entire world was made up of the four careers we saw glimpses of today -- a Politician, a Currency Trader, a Foreign Correspondent and a Historian (all social studies-related careers) -- which would each person choose? What would be their decision? Have students of similar decisions stand together in the class. Hear the reasons why each chose as they did. Look to point out the factors that influenced their decisions, which again are: public opinion, economics, emotions and individual perspective.

Reflection Activities

  1. Ask the class the identify circumstances where influences in decision making come into conflict (e.g. individual perspective and public opinion are different). After a few examples, point out that decisions are more difficult when influences are in conflict.

  2. Assign a two-paragraph homework assignment "Tough Decisions". In the first paragraph, ask each individual to identify a historic decision-making situation that has been studied this year and evaluate it. In that paragraph, ask them to summarize what they believe were the primary influences on that decision: public opinion, economics, emotions or individual perspective. In a second paragraph, ask them to do the same analysis of a local community decision or a personal decision.
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