HZT4U - Philosophy: Questions and Theories
Course Title: Philosophy: Questions and Theories
Course Code: HZT4U
Course Type: University
Credit Value: 1.0
Prerequisite: Any university or university/college preparation course in Social Sciences and Humanities, English, or Canadian and World Studies.
Curriculum Policy Document: Social Sciences and Humanities, The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 9 to 12, 2013
Department: Social Sciences and Humanities
Course Developer: Virtual High School
Development Date: 2011
Revision Date: 2013
This course enables students to acquire an understanding of the nature of philosophy and philosophical reasoning skills and to develop and apply their knowledge and skills while exploring specialized branches of philosophy (the course will cover at least three of the following branches: metaphysics, ethics, epistemology, philosophy of science, social and political philosophy, aesthetics). Students will develop critical thinking and philosophical reasoning skills as they formulate and evaluate arguments related to a variety of philosophical questions and theories. They will also develop research and inquiry skills related to the study and practice of philosophy.
|Unit Titles and Descriptions||Time and Sequence|
Introduction to Philosophy
In this first unit of the course, students will spend time looking at what truly makes a good philosopher. They will look at the elements of a definition, the various kinds of definitions that exist as well as the differences between these kinds of definitions. Students will then look at arguments with the aim of understanding their structure as well as the two different kinds of arguments that exist. This unit also takes a look at ways to appraise an argument and, in particular, ways to discover faulty premises within an argument. Students will then go on to look at the meaning of a fallacy and discuss various selected examples of fallacies and learn just why they are mistakes of reason. Finally, students will briefly look at the life of the ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates, the Socratic method as well as examining how the Socratic method might even be more useful to us today than it was thousands of years ago.
The Metaphysics unit will begin by describing the ideas of the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato. Students will learn about his famous theory of the Forms and how it paved the way for all subsequent discussion regarding the mental and physical worlds or, more generally, the mind and body. Then the course will look at the ideas of the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle. In particular, students will learn about Aristotle's particular conception of what is real in the world and how it corresponds and relates to Plato's theory of the Forms. Third, students will study the medieval Italian philosopher, Saint Thomas Aquinas. By looking at Aquinas' ideas they can see how he takes some of the views of Plato and Aristotle and combines them into a theory which he believes best explains the relationship between the mind (or soul, as he calls it) and body. Fourth, the course introduces the French philosopher, René Descartes, who is known to be the father of modern philosophy. In this section of the unit students will see how Descartes believed that he solved the question of whether to accept the existence of the mind or the body by accepting both as well as the serious problem that results from this position. Fifth, students will then look at the Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, who is known for his rather unorthodox views of God. In particular, students will see how his views on the mind and body are dramatically different than Descartes' and will learn about the important alternative theory within philosophy that Spinoza is known to defend. Sixth, students will examine Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's ideas, the German philosopher known for his rather peculiar theory about what really exists in the world. They will learn about the unique entity that he defends in particular as well as its relation to the mind and body in general. Finally, students will end the unit by studying the views of the Irish philosopher, George Berkeley, another philosopher known for his bold and very abstract views. They will learn about the specific theory that he defends as well as how his views are explicitly different than the other philosophers studied. The main aim of this unit will be to consider the metaphysical question of whether certain entities, such as the mind and body, really exist in the world. By studying each of the seven philosophers, all of whom are widely regarded as the greatest philosophers of all time, students should be able to gain an understanding of both their theories in general as well as how their theories relate to and address this important metaphysical issue.
In the Epistemology unit students will take the time to learn about and focus their attention towards several areas of concern in the study of knowledge. For instance, the unit will begin by describing the epistemological theories of the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato. Students will learn about his distinction between belief and knowledge and how it paved the way for all subsequent discussion regarding the mental and physical worlds or, more generally, the mind and body. Then the course looks at the epistemological theories of the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle. In particular, students will discover that Aristotle is reluctant to totally reject the role of belief and will learn how this reluctance is ultimately related to his theory of sense perception. Third, they will study the epistemological theories of the medieval Italian philosopher, Saint Thomas Aquinas. By looking at Aquinas's defence of the mental quality known as the phantasm they will learn how this quality plays a prominent role in his theory of how they can attain knowledge. Fourth, students will be introduced to the epistemological theories of the French philosopher, René Descartes. In this section of the unit students will be presented with the famous theory within philosophy that argues that knowledge comes from reason, namely, rationalism. Then they will go on to study the epistemological theories of the English philosopher, John Locke. In particular, students will learn about the famous theory within philosophy that argues that knowledge comes from experience, namely, empiricism and will learn how it differs sharply from the theory of rationalism. Students will then examine the epistemological theories of the Scottish philosopher, David Hume. Here they will learn about the theory of scepticism and how Hume is primarily sceptical of reason and the theory of rationalism. Finally, students will end the unit by studying the views of the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant. In this final section they will learn about the high level of priority that Kant attaches to the role of reason and his consequent theory known as transcendental idealism. The main aim of this unit will be to examine some important epistemological theories as presented by some of the greatest philosophers of all time. By studying each of the above seven philosophers, students should be able to gain an understanding of their philosophy in general as well as how their philosophy relates to and addresses fundamental questions concerning the study of knowledge.
In the Ethics unit students will take the time to discuss some of the directions that philosophers can take within moral philosophy. For instance, the unit will begin by discussing the ethical theory of the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato. In particular, they will learn about how his famous theory of the forms is related to the branch of ethics in particular as well as his important conception of the Form of the Good. Then students will look at the ethical theory of the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle. Here students will discover that, rather than following Plato's theory of the forms, when it came to living ethically Aristotle was more concerned about choices and actions in life as well as the specific notion of virtue. Next students will study the ethical theory of the third major philosopher to come out of ancient Greece, Epicurus. In particular, students will see how Epicurus' ethical theory is distinct from that of Plato's and Aristotle's and students will pay close attention to the notion of pleasure, the concept at the foundation of all Epicurean philosophy. Fourth, students will be introduced to the ethical theory of the Italian philosopher, Saint Thomas Aquinas. Students will learn how his ethical views are related to the theory within philosophy known as objectivism and, in particular, students will examine the main idea behind natural law theory. Then students will go on to study the ethical theory of the English philosopher, Jeremy Bentham. In this section of the unit students will be presented with the famous theory within ethics known as utilitarianism and will discuss Bentham's founding role with respect the theory. The course will then examine the ethical theory of the American philosopher, John Rawls. Here students will learn about the famous theory within ethics known as contractarianism and students will discuss the ways in which Rawls is understood to be a contractarian philosopher. Finally, students will end the unit by studying the ethical theory of the Canadian philosopher, G. A. Cohen. In this final section students will learn about the famous theory within ethics known as egalitarianism and students will learn about the ways in which Cohen is understood to be an egalitarian philosopher. The main aim of this unit will be to examine some important ethical theories as presented by some of the greatest moral philosophers of all time. By studying each of the above seven philosophers students should be able to gain an understanding of their philosophy in general as well as how their philosophy relates to and addresses fundamental questions concerning the study of ethics.
In the Political Philosophy unit students will take the time to discuss many of the different approaches to political philosophy as defended by some of the most famous and important political philosophers in the history of philosophy. For instance, the unit will begin by discussing the political philosophy of the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato. In particular, students will learn that a central part of Plato's overall political theory was focused on outlining certain conditions that he believed would lead to what he viewed as the ideal state. Then students will look at the political theory of the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle. Here students will discover that, rather than following Plato's goal of establishing the perfect state, what mattered more to Aristotle was the establishment of the proper function of the state for he viewed this as being the more important question. Next students will study the political theory of Thomas Hobbes. In particular, students will be introduced to the historical idea of the state of nature and will study exactly what the author of the famous idea had to say about it. As students will see, even today the concept of the state of nature is thought to provide the very reason why students should want government in their lives and why it is necessary and for this reason it is an imperative concept to study in any course in political philosophy. Then, in the next lesson students will go on to discuss the philosopher known as the father of liberalism, a theory which is easily said to be the most dominant political philosophy of the Western world, namely, John Locke. In particular, students will explore his ideas and learn how they are what provide the foundation of this massively influential political theory. Following that, students will discuss the philosopher regarded as the father of the important theory of conservatism, Edmund Burke. Students will learn about some of Burke's main ideas and will see how they would become to be the founding principles within conservative thought. Then, students will discuss the philosopher who is the father of the major political theory known as Marxism, namely, Karl Marx. Students will learn about the basic principles that Marx stood for and will come to understand how all of his ideas eventually became referred to under the general heading of Marxism. Finally, in the last lesson of the unit students will discuss the philosopher considered to be a key representative of the major and increasingly popular political theory known as libertarianism, namely, Robert Nozick. The course will illustrate how his ideas are deeply rooted in libertarian thought as well as how they are related to a particular form of anarchism, the theory that states that society can and should exist without government. The main aim of this unit will be to examine some of the most important political questions and theories as presented by some of the greatest political philosophers of all time. By studying each of the above seven philosophers students should be able to gain an understanding of their philosophy in general as well as how their philosophy relates to and addresses fundamental issues concerning the study of political philosophy.
In this unit students will take the time to discuss many of the themes within existentialism as portrayed by some of the most famous and important existential philosophers. For example, students will begin the unit by studying the philosopher who is considered to be the father of existentialism, Soren Kierkegaard. In particular, students will consider the general belief of his works, namely, his notion of subjectivity, as well as some of his more specific beliefs concerning what he refers to as 'spheres of existence.' Then students will look at some of the existential themes within the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Here students will be introduced to some key concepts within Nietzsche's philosophy and will try to understand how they might all fit together to form a coherent theory about ourselves. Next students will study the existential ideas found in the works of Martin Heidegger. Students will look at what makes Heidegger an existentialist as well as his ideas concerning his special notion of being which he refers to as 'Dasein.' Then in the next lesson students will go on to discuss the existential ideas of Jean-Paul Sartre. In particular, students will study his concepts of freedom and choice as well as his idea that consciousness is really just nothingness. Following that, students will discuss the work of Simone de Beauvoir and discover what specifically makes her an existentialist. In order to do so, students will learn about her views on ethics as well as her rejection of the traditional notion of femininity. Then students will discuss Maurice Merleau-Ponty and the existential themes found within his philosophy. In particular, students will learn how significant the body is to his philosophy and why he believes it is so crucial to gaining a comprehensive understanding of ourselves and the world. Finally, in the last lesson of the unit students will discuss Albert Camus and the existential themes presented in his works. Here students will see how, more than anything, he devotes his time to understanding the question of how one should be said to exist in an ultimately absurd world. The main aim of this unit will be to examine some of the most important existential ideas and themes as presented by some of the greatest existentialists of all time. By studying each of the above seven philosophers students should be able to gain an understanding of their philosophy in general as well as how their philosophy relates to and addresses fundamental issues within existentialism.
In this final unit of the course students are going to look at how the subject applies to the real world, that is, students are going to talk about philosophy and how it relates to everyday life. After all, philosophy does indeed have real life implications and it is important to know that the subject has both a meaning and relevance that reaches far outside of the philosophy classroom. For example, as students might have experienced in some of their other courses, it is quite common for philosophy to be discussed in other subjects as well. In fact, philosophy is not only discussed in other subjects but, quite frequently, it is what provides the very foundation for which many subjects are built upon. Furthermore, it is important to realize that philosophy also exists and is very much alive within the media. One just has to pick up a newspaper to see the philosophical significance of many current issues. There is also very much to be said about those current philosophers who are making a difference in the field of philosophy as students speak. This just proves how great philosophy is not something that was produced generations ago but is, rather, still very much alive and being created today. Also relevant with respect to philosophy and everyday life is the issue of being able to find a job in the field. As a student of philosophy, for instance, it is important to know and understand what kinds of options are available to them were they to decide to seriously pursue the subject. Finally, another consideration to bear in mind when discussing the relationship between philosophy and the real world is the perhaps rather popular notion that philosophy has no relevance to the real world. Even though these particular kinds of comments are ultimately criticisms of philosophy, they, nonetheless, prove how philosophy has an undeniable impact on the world. In this concluding unit, then, students will spend time looking at each of the above concerns. First, students will see how philosophy is associated with other subjects and will discuss the relationships between philosophy and religion, philosophy and science and philosophy and literature and poetry. Then students will look at how philosophy is discussed in the media. Students will look at three articles found online and discuss some of the interesting and relevant points of each article. Next students will take some time to discuss some well-known contemporary philosophers. They will learn about the kinds of influence that they have had on philosophy today and why their thoughts and ideas will likely continue to have an influence in the future. Then students will go on to look at some of the different types of jobs that a person can enter into with a philosophy degree. While the most obvious career path for students of philosophy might be thought to be the continuation of philosophical study at advanced levels, in fact, there exists a wide range of different careers that many philosophy students commonly pursue. Finally, in the last lesson of the course, students will highlight some historical thinkers who have been rather critical of philosophy and will come to see what kind of weight, if any, these thinkers' criticisms might have. The future of philosophy will also be discussed and the course will end on a positive and optimistic note defending the vast usefulness of this very important subject. This concluding unit should help to shed light on some of philosophy's more practical aspects as well as its exact role within the real world and everyday life. It might be popular to think that philosophy has no practical relevance to real life, however, it will be the main aim of this unit to dispel this notion and to emphasize that philosophy has just as much relevance as any other subject that students may study in school.
This project is worth 30% of the final grade. For the course's culminating activity students will have the opportunity to consider and respond to a passage from a primary source either in book format or from an online source.
Resources required by the student:
Note: This course is entirely online and does not require or rely on any textbook.
- A scanner, smart phone camera, or similar device to upload handwritten or hand-drawn work
- A digital video camera, a web camera, or similar device to record and upload video recordings
- A computer microphone, smart phone microphone, or similar device to record and upload audio recordings
Overall Curriculum Expectations
|A. Research and Inquiry Skills|
|A1||Exploring: explore topics related to philosophy, and formulate questions to guide their research;|
|A2||Investigating: create research plans, and locate and select information relevant to their chosen topics, using appropriate philosophical research and inquiry methods;|
|A3||Processing Information: assess, record, analyse, and synthesize information gathered through research and inquiry;|
|A4||Communicating and Reflecting: communicate the results of their research and inquiry clearly and effectively, and reflect on and evaluate their research, inquiry, and communication skills.|
|B. Philosophical Foundations|
|B1||The Nature of Philosophy: demonstrate an understanding of the main areas of philosophy, periods of philosophical development, and the differences between philosophy and other areas of inquiry;|
|B2||Philosophical Reasoning: demonstrate an understanding of philosophical reasoning and critical thinking skills, including skills required to identify and avoid common fallacies of reasoning, and demonstrate the ability to apply these skills in various contexts.|
|C. Core Topics: Metaphysics|
|C1||Understanding Metaphysics: demonstrate an understanding of the main questions in metaphysics, and of the positions of major philosophers and schools of philosophy with respect to some of these questions;|
|C2||Exploring Metaphysics: demonstrate an understanding of metaphysical theories, and evaluate responses to some of the main questions in metaphysics by major philosophers and schools of philosophy;|
|C3||Making Connections to Metaphysics: demonstrate an understanding of connections between metaphysics and other areas of philosophy, other subject areas, and various aspects of society, including everyday life;|
|C4||Philosophical Reasoning in Metaphysics: use philosophical reasoning skills to develop, communicate, and defend their own responses to metaphysical questions.|
|D. Core Topics: Ethics|
|D1||Understanding Ethics: demonstrate an understanding of the main questions in ethics, and of the positions of major philosophers and schools of philosophy with respect to some of these questions;|
|D2||Exploring Ethics: demonstrate an understanding of theories in ethics, and evaluate responses to some of the main questions in ethics by major philosophers and schools of philosophy;|
|D3||Making Connections to Ethics: demonstrate an understanding of connections between ethics and other areas of philosophy, other subject areas, and various aspects of society, including everyday life;|
|D4||Philosophical Reasoning in Ethics: use philosophical reasoning skills to develop, communicate, and defend their own responses to philosophical questions in ethics.|
|E. Core Topics: Epistemology|
|E1||Understanding Epistemology: demonstrate an understanding of the main questions in epistemology, and of the positions of major philosophers and schools of philosophy with respect to some of these questions;|
|E2||Exploring Epistemology: demonstrate an understanding of epistemological theories, and evaluate responses to some of the main questions in epistemology by major philosophers and schools of philosophy;|
|E3||Making Connections to Epistemology: demonstrate an understanding of connections between epistemology and other areas of philosophy, other subject areas, and various aspects of society, including everyday life;|
|E4||Philosophical Reasoning in Epistemology: use philosophical reasoning skills to develop, communicate, and defend their own responses to epistemological questions.|
|F. Supplementary Topics: Philosophy of Science|
|F1||Understanding the Philosophy of Science: demonstrate an understanding of the main questions in the philosophy of science, and of the positions of major philosophers and schools of philosophy with respect to some of these questions;|
|F2||Exploring the Philosophy of Science: demonstrate an understanding of theories in the philosophy of science, and evaluate responses to some of the main questions in the philosophy of science by major philosophers and schools of philosophy;|
|F3||Making Connections to the Philosophy of Science: demonstrate an understanding of connections between the philosophy of science and other areas of philosophy, other subject areas, and various aspects of society, including everyday life;|
|F4||Philosophical Reasoning in the Philosophy of Science: use philosophical reasoning skills to develop, communicate, and defend their own responses to questions in the philosophy of science.|
|G. Supplementary Topics: Social and Political Philosophy|
|G1||Understanding Social and Political Philosophy: demonstrate an understanding of the main questions in social and political philosophy, and of the positions of major philosophers and schools of philosophy with respect to some of these questions;|
|G2||Exploring Social and Political Philosophy: demonstrate an understanding of theories in social and political philosophy, and evaluate responses to some of the main questions in social and political philosophy by major philosophers and schools of philosophy;|
|G3||Making Connections to Social and Political Philosophy: demonstrate an understanding of connections between social and political philosophy and other areas of philosophy, other subject areas, and various aspects of society, including everyday life;|
|G4||Philosophical Reasoning in Social and Political Philosophy: use philosophical reasoning skills to develop, communicate, and defend their own responses to questions in social and political philosophy.|
|H. Supplementary Topics: Aesthetics|
|G1||Understanding Aesthetics: demonstrate an understanding of the main questions in aesthetics, and of the positions of major philosophers and schools of philosophy with respect to some of these questions;|
|G2||Exploring Aesthetics: demonstrate an understanding of theories in aesthetics, and evaluate responses to some of the main questions in aesthetics by major philosophers and schools of philosophy;|
|G3||Making Connections to Aesthetics: demonstrate an understanding of connections between aesthetics and other areas of philosophy, other subject areas, and various aspects of society, including everyday life;|
|G4||Philosophical Reasoning in Aesthetics: use philosophical reasoning skills to develop, communicate, and defend their own responses to questions in aesthetics.|
Teaching & Learning Strategies:
The nature of the social science and humanities curriculum calls for a variety of strategies for learning. The social science and humanities curriculum is designed both to engage students in reflective learning and to help them develop practical skills. Students are expected to learn and apply the inquiry skills and research methods particular to the discipline, and to conduct research and analysis using both traditional and technological resources.
Since the over-riding aim of this course is to help students use language skillfully, confidently and flexibly, a wide variety of instructional strategies are used to provide learning opportunities to accommodate a variety of learning styles, interests and ability levels.
Assessment and Evaluation and Reporting Strategies of Student Performance:
Our theory of assessment and evaluation follows the Ministry of Education's Growing Success document, and it is our firm belief that doing so is in the best interests of students. We seek to design assessment in such a way as to make it possible to gather and show evidence of learning in a variety of ways to gradually release responsibility to the students, and to give multiple and varied opportunities to reflect on learning and receive detailed feedback.
Growing Success articulates the vision the Ministry has for the purpose and structure of assessment and evaluation techniques. There are seven fundamental principles that ensure best practices and procedures of assessment and evaluation by Virtual High School teachers. VHS assessments and evaluations,
- are fair, transparent, and equitable for all students;
- support all students, including those with special education needs, those who are learning the language of instruction (English or French), and those who are First Nation, Métis, or Inuit;
- are carefully planned to relate to the curriculum expectations and learning goals and, as much as possible, to the interests, learning styles and preferences, needs, and experiences of all students;
- are communicated clearly to students and parents at the beginning of the course and at other points throughout the school year or course;
- are ongoing, varied in nature, and administered over a period of time to provide multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate the full range of their learning;
- provide ongoing descriptive feedback that is clear, specific, meaningful, and timely to support improved learning and achievement;
- develop students’ self-assessment skills to enable them to assess their own learning, set specific goals, and plan next steps for their learning.
For a full explanation, please refer to Growing Success.
The Final Grade:
The evaluation for this course is based on the student's achievement of curriculum expectations and the demonstrated skills required for effective learning. The final percentage grade represents the quality of the student's overall achievement of the expectations for the course and reflects the corresponding level of achievement as described in the achievement chart for the discipline. A credit is granted and recorded for this course if the student's grade is 50% or higher. The final grade will be determined as follows:
- 70% of the grade will be based upon evaluations conducted throughout the course. This portion of the grade will reflect the student's most consistent level of achievement throughout the course, although special consideration will be given to more recent evidence of achievement.
- 30% of the grade will be based on final evaluations administered at the end of the course. The final assessment may be a final exam, a final project, or a combination of both an exam and a project.
The Report Card:
Student achievement will be communicated formally to students via an official report card. Report cards are issued at the midterm point in the course, as well as upon completion of the course. Each report card will focus on two distinct, but related aspects of student achievement. First, the achievement of curriculum expectations is reported as a percentage grade. Additionally, the course median is reported as a percentage. The teacher will also provide written comments concerning the student's strengths, areas for improvement, and next steps. Second, the learning skills are reported as a letter grade, representing one of four levels of accomplishment. The report card also indicates whether an OSSD credit has been earned. Upon completion of a course, VHS will send a copy of the report card back to the student's home school (if in Ontario) where the course will be added to the ongoing list of courses on the student's Ontario Student Transcript. The report card will also be sent to the student's home address.
Program Planning Considerations:
Teachers who are planning a program in this subject will make an effort to take into account considerations for program planning that align with the Ontario Ministry of Education policy and initiatives in a number of important areas.
Planning Programs for Students with Special Education Needs
Virtual High School is committed to ensuring that all students, especially those with special education needs, are provided with the learning opportunities and supports they require to gain the knowledge, skills, and confidence needed to succeed in a rapidly changing society. The context of special education and the provision of special education programs and services for exceptional students in Ontario are constantly evolving. Provisions included in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code have driven some of these changes. Others have resulted from the evolution and sharing of best practices related to the teaching and assessment of students with special educational needs.
Virtual High School pays particular attention to the following beliefs: (1) all students can succeed, (2) each student has his or her own unique patterns of learning, (3) successful instructional practices are founded in evidence-based research, tempered by experience, (4) an open and accessible learning environment with differentiated instruction are effective and interconnected means of meeting the learning or productivity needs of any group of students, (5) classroom teachers are the key educators for a student's literacy and numeracy development, (6) classroom teachers need the support of the larger community to create a learning environment that supports students with special education needs, and finally, (7) fairness is not sameness.
The provision of special education programs and services for students at Virtual High School rests within a legal framework The Education Act and the regulations related to it set out the legal responsibilities pertaining to special education. They provide comprehensive procedures for the identification of exceptional pupils, for the placement of those pupils in educational settings where the special education programs and services appropriate to their needs can be delivered, and for the review of the identification of exceptional pupils and their placement.
If the student requires either accommodations or modified expectations, or both, then Virtual High School will take into account these needs of exceptional students as they are set out in the students' Individual Education Plan. The online courses offer a vast array of opportunities for students with special educations needs to acquire the knowledge and skills required for our evolving society. Students who use alternative techniques for communication may find a venue to use these special skills in these courses. There are a number of technical and learning aids that can assist in meeting the needs of exceptional students as set out in their Individual Education Plan. In the process of taking their online course, students may use a personal amplification system, tele-typewriter (via Bell relay service), an oral or a sign-language interpreter, a scribe, specialized computer programs, time extensions, ability to change font size, oral readers, etc.
Accommodations (instructional, environmental or assessment) allow the student with special education needs access to the curriculum without changes to the course curriculum expectations. The IEP box on the student's provincial report card will not be checked in this circumstance. The student is eligible for the credit.
Students having modified curriculum expectations reflected in their IEP, will have either an increase or decrease in the number of curriculum expectations. These modified expectations represent measurable goals of the knowledge or skills to be demonstrated by the student using appropriate assessment methods. The principal will determine whether achievement of the modified expectations constitutes successful completion of the course, and will decide whether the student is eligible to receive a credit for the course.
Program Considerations for English Language Learners
This Virtual High School online course provide a number of strategies to address the needs of ESL/ELD students. This online course must be flexible in order to accommodate the needs of students who require instruction in English as a second language or English literacy development. The Virtual High School teacher considers it to be his or her responsibility to help students develop their ability to use the English language properly. Appropriate accommodations affecting the teaching, learning, and evaluation strategies in this course may be made in order to help students gain proficiency in English, since students taking English as a second language at the secondary level have limited time in which to develop this proficiency. Virtual High School determines the student's level of proficiency in the English Language upon registration. This information is communicated to the teacher of the course following the registration and the teacher then invokes a number of strategies and resources to support the student in the course. On a larger scale, well written content will aid ESL students in mastering not only the content of this course, but as well, the English language and all of its idiosyncrasies. Virtual High School has created course content to enrich the student's learning experience. Many occupations in Canada require employees with capabilities in the English language. Enabling students to learn English language skills will contribute to their success in the larger world.
Helping students become environmentally responsible is a role assumed by Virtual High School. The first goal is to promote learning about environmental issues and solutions. The second goal is to engage students in practicing and promoting environmental stewardship in their community. The third goal stresses the importance of the education system providing leadership by implementing and promoting responsible environmental practices so that all stakeholders become dedicated to living more sustainably. Environmental education teaches students about how the planet's physical and biological systems work, and how we can create a more sustainable future. Good curriculum design following the resource document - The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 9-12: Environmental Education, Scope and Sequence of Expectations, 2011, will assist Virtual High School staff to weave environmental education in and out of the online course content. This ensures that the student will have opportunities to acquire the knowledge, skills, perspectives and practices needed to become an environmentally literate citizen. The online course should provide opportunities for each student to address environmental issues in their home, in their local community, or even at the global level.
Every student is entitled to learn in a safe, caring environment, free from violence and harassment. Students learn and achieve better in such environments. The safe and supportive social environment at Virtual High School is founded on healthy relationships between all people. Healthy relationships are based on respect, caring, empathy, trust, and dignity, and thrive in an environment in which diversity is honoured and accepted. Healthy relationships do not tolerate abusive, controlling, violent, bullying/harassing, or other inappropriate behaviours. To experience themselves as valued and connected members of an inclusive social environment, students need to be involved in healthy relationships with their peers, teachers, and other members of the Virtual High School community.
The most effective way to enable all students to learn about healthy and respectful relationships is through the school curriculum. Virtual High School teachers can promote this learning in a variety of ways. For example, they can help students develop and practise the skills they need for building healthy relationships by giving them opportunities to apply critical-thinking and problem solving strategies and to address issues through group discussions, role play, case study analysis, and other means. Virtual High School can also have a positive influence on students by modelling the behaviours, values, and skills that are needed to develop and sustain healthy relationships, and by taking advantage of “teachable moments” to address immediate relationship issues that may arise among students.
At Virtual High School, all staff strive to create a climate of cooperation, collaboration, respect, and open-mindedness. These attitudes and attributes enable our students to develop an awareness of the complexity of a range of issues. Moreover, in examining issues from multiple perspectives, students develop not only an understanding of various positions on these issues but also a respect for different points of view. Virtual High School students will hopefully develop empathy as they analyse events and issues from the perspectives of people all over the world. These attitudes and attributes provide a foundation on which students can develop their own identity, explore interconnectedness with others, and form and maintain healthy relationships.
Equity and Inclusive Education
The Virtual High School equity and inclusive education strategy focuses on respecting diversity, promoting inclusive education, and identifying and eliminating discriminatory biases, systemic barriers, and power dynamics that limit the ability of students to learn, grow, and contribute to society. Antidiscrimination education continues to be an important and integral component of this strategy.
In an environment based on the principles of inclusive education, all students, parents, caregivers, and other members of the school community - regardless of ancestry, culture, ethnicity, sex, physical or intellectual ability, race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, or other similar factors - are welcomed, included, treated fairly, and respected. Diversity is valued, and all members of the Virtual High School community feel safe, comfortable, and accepted. Every student is supported and inspired to succeed in a culture of high expectations for learning. In an inclusive education system, all students see themselves reflected in the curriculum, their physical surroundings, and the broader environment, so that they can feel engaged in and empowered by their learning experiences.
Virtual High School can give students a variety of opportunities to learn about diversity and diverse perspectives. By drawing attention to the contributions of women, the perspectives of various ethno-cultural, religious, and racial communities, and the beliefs and practices of First Nations, Mêtis, and Inuit peoples, teachers enable Virtual High School students from a wide range of backgrounds to see themselves reflected in the curriculum. It is essential that learning activities and materials used to support the curriculum reflect the multicultural nature of society that is Canada. In addition, Virtual High School differentiates the instruction and assessment strategies to take into account the background and experiences, as well as the interests, aptitudes, and learning needs, of all students.
Financial Literacy Education
Financial literacy may be defined as having the knowledge and skills needed to make responsible economic and financial decisions with competence and confidence. Since making financial decisions has become an increasingly complex task in the modern world, students need to have knowledge in various areas and a wide range of skills in order to make informed decisions about financial matters. Students need to be aware of risks that accompany various financial choices. They need to develop an understanding of world economic forces as well as ways in which they themselves can respond to those influences and make informed choices. Virtual High School considers it essential that financial literacy be considered an important attribute of a well-educated population. In addition to acquiring knowledge in such specific areas as saving, spending, borrowing, and investing, students need to develop skills in problem solving, inquiry, decision making, critical thinking, and critical literacy related to financial and other issues. The goal is to help students acquire the knowledge and skills that will enable them to understand and respond to complex issues regarding their own personal finances and the finances of their families, as well as to develop an understanding of local and global effects of world economic forces and the social, environmental, and ethical implications of their own choices as consumers. The Ministry of Education and Virtual High School are working to embed financial literacy expectations and opportunities in all courses as appropriate, as part of the ongoing curriculum review process.
Literacy, Mathematical Literacy, and Inquiry Skills
Literacy is defined as the ability to use language and images in rich and varied forms to read, write, listen, view, represent, and think critically about ideas. It involves the capacity to access, manage, and evaluate information; to think imaginatively and analytically; and to communicate thoughts and ideas effectively. Literacy includes critical thinking and reasoning to solve problems and make decisions related to issues of fairness, equity, and social justice. Literacy connects individuals and communities and is an essential tool for personal growth and active participation in a cohesive, democratic society. Literacy involves a range of critical-thinking skills and is essential for learning across the curriculum. Literacy instruction takes different forms of emphasis in different subjects, but in all subjects, literacy needs to be explicitly taught. Literacy, mathematical literacy, and inquiry/research skills are critical to students' success in all subjects of the curriculum and in all areas of their lives.
Many of the activities and tasks that students undertake in the Virtual High School courses involve the literacy skills relating to oral, written, and visual communication. For example, they develop literacy skills by reading, interpreting, and analysing various texts. In addition, they develop the skills needed to construct, extract information from, and analyse various types information presented in a variety of media forms. In all Virtual High School courses, students are required to use appropriate and correct terminology, including that related to the concepts of disciplinary thinking, and are encouraged to use language with care and precision in order to communicate effectively.
Inquiry and research are at the heart of learning in all subject areas at Virtual High School. Students are encouraged to develop their ability to ask questions and to explore a variety of possible answers to those questions. As they advance through the grades, they acquire the skills to locate relevant information from a variety of print and electronic sources. The questioning they practiced in the early grades becomes more sophisticated as they learn that all sources of information have a particular point of view and that the recipient of the information has a responsibility to evaluate it, determine its validity and relevance, and use it in appropriate ways. The ability to locate, question, and validate information allows a student to become an independent, lifelong learner.
Critical Thinking and Critical Literacy
Critical thinking is the process of thinking about ideas or situations in order to understand them fully, identify their implications, make a judgement, and/or guide decision making. Critical thinking includes skills such as questioning, predicting, analysing, synthesizing, examining opinions, identifying values and issues, detecting bias, and distinguishing between alternatives. Students who are taught these skills become critical thinkers who can move beyond superficial conclusions to a deeper understanding of the issues they are examining. They are able to engage in an inquiry process in which they explore complex and multifaceted issues, and questions for which there may be no clear-cut answers.
Students use critical-thinking skills in Virtual High School courses when they assess, analyse, and/or evaluate the impact of something and when they form an opinion about something and support that opinion with a rationale. In order to think critically, students need to examine the opinions and values of others, detect bias, look for implied meaning, and use the information gathered to form a personal opinion or stance, or a personal plan of action with regard to making a difference. Students approach critical thinking in various ways. Some students find it helpful to discuss their thinking, asking questions and exploring ideas. Other students, including many First Nations, Mêtis, and Inuit students, may take time to observe a situation or consider a text carefully before commenting; they may prefer not to ask questions or express their thoughts orally while they are thinking.
The development of these critical-thinking skills is supported in every course at Virtual High School. As students work to achieve the curriculum expectations in their particular course, students frequently need to identify the possible implications of choices. As they gather information from a variety of sources, they need to be able to interpret what they are listening to, reading, or viewing; to look for instances of bias; and to determine why a source might express a particular bias.
The Role of the School Library
The school library program in many schools can help build and transform students' knowledge in order to support lifelong learning in our information- and knowledge-based society. The school library program of these schools supports student success across the curriculum by encouraging students to read widely, teaching them to examine and read many forms of text for understanding and enjoyment, and helping them improve their research skills and effectively use information gathered through research. Virtual High School teachers assist students in accessing a variety of online resources and collections (e.g., professional articles, image galleries, videos, databases). Teachers at Virtual High School will also guide students through the concept of ownership of work and the importance of copyright in all forms of media.
The Role of Information and Communications Technology
Information literacy is the ability to access, select, gather, critically evaluate, and create information. Communication literacy refers to the ability to communicate information and to use the information obtained to solve problems and make decisions. Information and communications technologies are utilized by all Virtual High School students when the situation is appropriate within their online course. As a result, students will develop transferable skills through their experience with word processing, internet research, presentation software, and telecommunication tools, as would be expected in any other course or any business environment. Although the Internet is a powerful learning tool, there are potential risks attached to its use. All students must be made aware of issues related to Internet privacy, safety, and responsible use, as well as of the potential for abuse of this technology, particularly when it is used to promote hatred.
The Ontario Skills Passport: Making Learning Relevant and Building Skills
The Ontario Skills Passport (OSP) is a free, bilingual, web-based resource that provides teachers and students with clear descriptions of the "Essential Skills" and work habits important in work, learning, and life. Virtual High School can engage students by using OSP tools and resources to show how what they learn in class can be applied in the workplace and in everyday life. For further information on the Ontario Skills Passport, including the Essential Skills and work habits, visit http://www.skills.edu.gov.on.ca.
Education and Career/Life Planning
As online students progress through online courses, teachers are available to help the student prepare for employment in a number of diverse areas. With the help of teachers, students will learn to set and achieve goals and will gain experience in making meaningful decisions concerning career choices. The skills, knowledge and creativity that students acquire through this online course are essential for a wide range of careers. Throughout their secondary school education, students will learn about the educational and career opportunities that are available to them; explore and evaluate a variety of those opportunities; relate what they learn in their courses to potential careers in a variety of fields; and learn to make appropriate educational and career choices. The framework of the program is a four-step inquiry process based on four questions linked to four areas of learning: (1) knowing yourself - Who am I?; (2) exploring opportunities - What are my opportunities?; (3) making decisions and setting goals - Who do I want to become?; and (4) achieving goals and making transitions - What is my plan for achieving my goals?
Cooperative Education and Other Forms of Experiential Learning
By applying the skills they have developed, students will readily connect their classroom learning to real-life activities in the world in which they live. Cooperative education and other workplace experiences will broaden their knowledge of employment opportunities in a wide range of fields. In addition, students will increase their understanding of workplace practices and the nature of the employer-employee relationship. Virtual High School will try to help students link to Ministry programs to ensure that students have information concerning programs and opportunities.
Planning Program Pathways and Programs Leading to a Specialist High Skills Major
Virtual High School courses are well suited for inclusion in Specialist High Skills Majors (SHSMs) or in programs designed to provide pathways to particular apprenticeship, college, university, or workplace destinations. In some SHSM programs, courses at Virtual High School can be bundled with other courses to provide the academic knowledge and skills important to particular economic sectors and required for success in the workplace and postsecondary education, including apprenticeship training.
Health and Safety
In order to provide a suitable learning environment for the Virtual High School staff and students, it is critical that classroom practice and the learning environment complies with relevant federal, provincial, and municipal health and safety legislation and by-laws, including, but not limited to, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), the Food and Drug Act, the Health Protection and Promotion Act, the Ontario Building Code, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). The OHSA requires all schools to provide a safe and productive learning and work environment for both students and employees.
Virtual High School courses provide varied opportunities for students to learn about ethical issues and to explore the role of ethics in both public and personal decision making. During the inquiry process, students may need to make ethical judgements when evaluating evidence and positions on various issues, and when drawing their own conclusions about issues, developments, and events. Teachers may need to help students in determining appropriate factors to consider when making such judgements. In addition, it is crucial that Virtual High School teachers provide support and supervision to students throughout the inquiry process, ensuring that students engaged in an inquiry are aware of potential ethical concerns and address them in acceptable ways. Teachers at Virtual High School will ensure that they thoroughly address the issue of plagiarism with students. In a digital world in which there is easy access to abundant information, it is very easy to copy the words of others and present them as one's own. Students need to be reminded, even at the secondary level, of the ethical issues surrounding plagiarism, and the consequences of plagiarism should be clearly discussed before students engage in an inquiry. It is important to discuss not only dishonest plagiarism but also more negligent plagiarism instances. Students often struggle to find a balance between writing in their own voice and acknowledging the work of others in the field. Merely telling students not to plagiarize, and admonishing those who do, is not enough. The skill of writing in one's own voice, while appropriately acknowledging the work of others, must be explicitly taught to all Virtual High School courses. Using accepted forms of documentation to acknowledge sources is a specific expectation within the inquiry and skill development strand for each course.