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Making the Court Come to Life: Developing Effective Judicial Politics Simulations
Unformatted Document Text:  Rather than make these assignments randomly, 18 I ask students to complete a survey on the first day of class. 19 Survey questions are aimed to achieve two goals. First, a series of questions is crafted specifically to provide me with a gauge of their knowledge coming into the class. Second, I include a number of questions that ask them to self-assess their skills in reading and interpreting court decisions as well as their skill and comfort in oral and written communication. I create working groups based upon these factors to ensure that each group has members who are experienced and comfortable reading Court decisions alongside some group members who are not. Similarly, each group is balanced between those who are most comfortable communicating in writing and those who are most comfortable communicating by speaking. 20 Because each group will be asked to engage in both written and oral communication (in some form), this balance allows the students to learn from each other, with no one student being forced to step out of their comfort zone entirely. To prepare students for the simulation, I re-organized the syllabus to allow for extra time to devote to state judicial selection and current debates about judicial selection. During this time, students read the White decision (both the U.S. Supreme Court decision and the 8 th Circuit decision) and are assigned materials that (1) explain selection methods in more depth than the average textbook, and (2) address current debates in judicial selection. During other portions of 18 Random assignment is generally recommended by those who have offered recommendations on court simulations in the classroom. See, for example, Baker (1994), Hensley (1993). 19 See Appendix A for this survey. 20 In his discussion of the pedagogy of group work in English classes, Mark Sutton (2005) argues that the creation of student groups is among the most important roles of the instructor. In using groups to “workshop” student work, he offers the following advice based upon his own experiences: “We must carefully choose the students who will work together. While [some] argue students would select their own partners, students may not always choose individuals from whom they can learn. Using information about students they can access, instructors can create groups of differing experts… In my composition classes, I create groups by the semester’s fourth week. By then, students have completed several written assignments, both in and out of class. These samples give me a sense of writing skill levels at that point in the semester. I also have students answer a questionnaire… that surveys students’ experience working in groups, personal working style, preference toward being a leader, approach to group process… and the special skills or experiences that could help the groups, such as working on the school newspaper or having strong organizational skills… I use this information to create groups as diverse as possible. In addition to varying the level of writing skill, I try to place in each group at least one task-oriented and one group-oriented students.” He also suggests opportunities for peer evaluation of group work, which I use in this and other classes.

Authors: Caufield, Rachel.
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background image
Rather than make these assignments randomly,
I ask students to complete a survey on
the first day of class.
Survey questions are aimed to achieve two goals. First, a series of
questions is crafted specifically to provide me with a gauge of their knowledge coming into the
class. Second, I include a number of questions that ask them to self-assess their skills in reading
and interpreting court decisions as well as their skill and comfort in oral and written
communication. I create working groups based upon these factors to ensure that each group has
members who are experienced and comfortable reading Court decisions alongside some group
members who are not. Similarly, each group is balanced between those who are most
comfortable communicating in writing and those who are most comfortable communicating by
speaking.
Because each group will be asked to engage in both written and oral communication
(in some form), this balance allows the students to learn from each other, with no one student
being forced to step out of their comfort zone entirely.
To prepare students for the simulation, I re-organized the syllabus to allow for extra time
to devote to state judicial selection and current debates about judicial selection. During this time,
students read the White decision (both the U.S. Supreme Court decision and the 8
th
Circuit
decision) and are assigned materials that (1) explain selection methods in more depth than the
average textbook, and (2) address current debates in judicial selection. During other portions of
18
Random assignment is generally recommended by those who have offered recommendations on court simulations
in the classroom. See, for example, Baker (1994), Hensley (1993).
19
See Appendix A for this survey.
20
In his discussion of the pedagogy of group work in English classes, Mark Sutton (2005) argues that the creation of
student groups is among the most important roles of the instructor. In using groups to “workshop” student work, he
offers the following advice based upon his own experiences: “We must carefully choose the students who will work
together. While [some] argue students would select their own partners, students may not always choose individuals
from whom they can learn. Using information about students they can access, instructors can create groups of
differing experts… In my composition classes, I create groups by the semester’s fourth week. By then, students
have completed several written assignments, both in and out of class. These samples give me a sense of writing skill
levels at that point in the semester. I also have students answer a questionnaire… that surveys students’ experience
working in groups, personal working style, preference toward being a leader, approach to group process… and the
special skills or experiences that could help the groups, such as working on the school newspaper or having strong
organizational skills… I use this information to create groups as diverse as possible. In addition to varying the level
of writing skill, I try to place in each group at least one task-oriented and one group-oriented students.” He also
suggests opportunities for peer evaluation of group work, which I use in this and other classes.


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