Being Informative and Persuasive when Discussing Legal Topics

Being Informative and Persuasive when Discussing Legal Topics

Terel Watson

Law and Paralegal Studies

Senior Legal Seminar

Activity Description: Provide a brief description of the activity

In this activity, students are required to view two videos relating to an area of Criminal Justice Reform that the students are drafting their scholarly paper analyzing. The two videos are excerpts from documentaries or journalistic pieces. The students are then required to spot the legal issues presented in the videos and use the research they have done on the topic and discussions in class to take a position on those issues orally. Students will have 5 minutes to present their position. The presentation is followed by a 5-minute student-led question-and-answer session.

Learning Goals: What do you aim to achieve with this activity?

This is an assignment for a writing-intensive capstone course. One area in my students' writing that needed improvement was their ability to articulate their position using reliable evidence. While all of my students had strong opinions on the legal topics discussed in class, they struggled to defend why they had certain positions. For their scholarly paper, my students are asked to inform on one of three areas of Criminal Justice Reform and to persuade an audience of their position relating to an aspect of the topic. The students are then required to use numerous primary and secondary sources to inform and defend their position.

This assignment assesses their ability to articulate their views orally and cogently. Once this assignment is completed, students will apply the same principles to improve their ability to inform and persuade in written form.

Timing: At what point in the lesson or semester do you use this activity? How much classroom time do you devote to it? How much out-of-class time is expected?

This course requires that much of the semester be devoted to the 15-page significant written assignment. This oral assignment serves as part of the scaffolding process in students preparing their papers. Thus, the oral assignment would be completed during the latter third of the semester, during the drafting of the final paper. In addition, time will be devoted to the presentations over two, two-hour class sessions.

Logistics: What preparation is needed for this activity? What instructions do you give students? Is the activity low-stakes, high-stakes, or something else?

As students are writing their final paper, they are doing significant research into the issues presented. This assignment is designed so students aren't required to do research outside the scope of their paper. Once students understand that they are very receptive. Students are first alerted to the need to complete an oral presentation early in the course. The syllabus also provides a brief overview of the oral assignment. The syllabus also states that the oral presentation is 15% of the final overall grade. Thus, it can be "high stakes" for students.

Assessment: How do you assess this activity? What assessment measures do you use? Do you use a VALUE rubric? If not, how did you develop your rubric? Is your course part of the college-wide general education assessment initiative?

My course is not a part of the college-wide general education assessment initiative. The Oral Communication VALUE Rubric is a great guide for me in assessing the student’s mastery of the learning goals related to this assignment. However, I do not publish a set rubric for this assignment. I will consider doing that in the future. As a general matter, below are some questions I consider determining a student's success with the assignment:
1. Did the student spot the legal issues requiring analysis?
2. Did the student properly use primary and secondary sources to inform on the issue?
3. Did the student use their sources to present the information accurately?
4. Do students properly use primary and secondary sources to persuade their audience on their position.
5. Are the students logical and coherent in their presentation of their position?
6. Can students answer questions about their position extemporaneously? Or is the student tied to excessive notes?

Reflection: How well did this activity work in your classroom? Would you repeat it? Why or why not? What challenges did you encounter, and how did you address them? What, if anything, would you change? What did students seem to enjoy about the activity?

While I have always had an oral presentation component to my course. I have not yet implemented this video-driven prompt to my course yet. Last semester I taught Legal Ethics and not this seminar. However, in the past student used PowerPoint to present on their legal topic. However, this led to students excessively lecturing on the topic and made it difficult to incite dynamic and meaningful questions after the presentation in some cases. Thus, the use of provocative videos serves to focus the presentations a bit. These videos will also stimulate deep thought on "hot-button" issues important to students. I look forward to incorporating this into my course the next time I teach the seminar!

Additional Information: Please share any additional comments and further documentation of the activity – e.g. assignment instructions, rubrics, examples of student work, etc. These can be links to pages or posts on the OpenLab.

Please share a helpful link to a pages or post on the OpenLab

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