TC² @ 25
Focus for This Month
Success Stories
Next Steps
Media Release
TC² @ 25
Focus for This Month
Success Stories
Next Steps
Media Release

Partnering Up to Design a National Education Strategy


Neil Orford

Throughout my more than 30 years of teaching history in Ontario, I continually advocated for critical thinking—the principles and practices of which The Critical Thinking Consortium (TC²) so capably brings to life. The work of TC² consultants Garfield and Laura Gini-Newman had informed my classroom practice for years. So it was a natural decision, when I retired and began to lead heritage projects for the federal government, to collaborate with TC².


What is Defining Moments Canada?

Together, TC² and Defining Moments Canada designed a national educational strategy for an online platform that identifies historical “moments” of national importance in our shared Canadian histories. At the heart of our mission is to “tell untold stories from voices too long unheard.”

Our website tells some of those stories in the appropriate historical context, through articles and historical sources. Our goal, however, is to help students identify and tell the untold stories themselves. Our materials help students conduct digital research to uncover the hidden histories in their own communities, through an interdisciplinary learning model. We go further to invite teachers to collaborate in school professional learning communities involving external community partners such as museums, libraries, and cultural agencies.


Initial collaboration with TC²

Collaboration with TC² to design our pedagogical framework began in 2018 with an effort to engage students in Grades 6–12 in interdisciplinary research in two national projects:

  • The Spanish Flu Pandemic in Canada, 1918–1919, which explores this catastrophe through a Canadian lens
  • Juno75, which explores Canada’s experience of the D-Day Landings
In both cases, the inquiry model, lesson plans, criterion-based rubrics, digital assets, and teacher resources are freely available to all teachers wanting to experiment with interdisciplinary learning opportunities.


Nature of the educational design

The TC² educational design challenged students with an inquiry task directed by a key question that set a rich context for the inquiry process. An innovative digital thoughtbook scaffolded the inquiry from the ideas stage through communication. Teachers guide their students through the inquiry via four rigorous lessons offering a truly innovative experience in classroom practice.

Many teachers found that our deep dive into interdisciplinary learning inspired them to rethink how they could develop their students’ historical understandings. For example, how could student understanding of the 1918 pandemic be refracted through a numeracy lens, using rich data and principles of statistical probabilities? In what ways could student learning about D-Day be enhanced by creating story maps from primary resources and georeferencing? These rich tasks produced some dynamic classroom experiences. To see a few exemplary projects, click on Awards Recipients at the Recovering Canada contest website.


Continuing to connect Canadian students with their history

Defining Moments Canada’s innovative framework, designed by TC², could easily become the template for project-based inquiry in the digital arena. Teachers who seek new strategies for student engagement in history, math, science, and the arts can all find exemplary models within the Defining Moments Canada website. With a vast array of digital assets and following the TC² inquiry model, the Defining Moments website can inspire teachers to connect Canadian students with their heritage in decidedly 21st century ways.

Neil Orford
Project Leader
Defining Moments Canada, Ltd.
(retired history teacher, Upper Grand District School Board, Ontario)