Innovative AJS Curriculum Helps High School Seniors Understand the Justice System

By Feldmann, M. L.; Shelley, Mack C., II | Judicature, May/June 2007 | Go to article overview

Innovative AJS Curriculum Helps High School Seniors Understand the Justice System


Feldmann, M. L., Shelley, Mack C., II, Judicature


Primary and secondary schools provide pivotal education experiences and content to students through civics classes that prepare children to be responsible citizens. On a positive note, students in the United States generally have performed well on national civics exams. About two-thirds performed at or above the "basic" level on civics tests in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which also is known as the Nation's Report Card.1 When these civics tests are reviewed further, however, it is obvious that students did not perform as well on tests concerning judicial topics.

Specifically, 12th graders are challenged to understand issues concerning the Supreme Court and the structure of the federal judiciary. For example, 70 percent do not know that the Supreme Court has the power to find a law unconstitutional and overturn it, and 75 percent failed to understand the systems of checks and balances to prevent absolute power by any one branch of government. Only 10 percent of high school seniors understood the meaning behind Justitia, the Roman figure of justice represented by a statue of a blindfolded woman holding a set of scales.2

A new approach

To answer the call for improved curricula for 12th grade civics classes, the High School Unit of Study on the Judicial Branch project was conceived by the American Judicature Society (AJS). The project sought to increase public understanding of the justice system through a new curriculum for high school seniors concerning the rule of law, principles of the justice system, and the administration of justice.

This project was pilot tested in social studies classes at three geographically and socio-economically diverse schools-a rural high school in Arizona, an urban high school in Massachusetts, and a suburban high school in New York State. A carefully selected teacher at each school agreed to teach two classes, one that included the new curriculum (i.e., the experimental group) and the other that covered the conventional curriculum (i.e., the control group). The project sought to determine through comparison of the two groups and among the three high schools whether the program was capable of being scaled up to national application and adaptable to any school district.

The Unit of Study on the Judicial Branch is a two-lesson unit. The first lesson concerning the Supreme Court requires students to research and role-play current U. S. Supreme Court justices, their clerks, and opposing attorneys. Teachers were provided with class notes, a day planner, student rubrics to measure completion of learning activities and role-playing tasks, instructions for teaching the experimental unit, and handouts. The case involved hypothetical amicus curiae briefs, writs of certiorari, and opinions (both majority and dissenting) from a real case for use as overheads.

The second lesson concerns court procedures. It is a simulation game about a murder that requires students to role-play witnesses, a judge, prosecuting and defense attorneys, detectives, CSI team members, jurors, a court clerk, and other justice-system actors, as well as a journalist and a photographer. As with the Supreme Court lesson, detailed teacher notes, a day planner, student rubrics, handouts, and links to resources were provided.

Evaluation activities for each of the three schools included pre- and post-tests for all students in the experimental and control sections of the classes, focus groups with selected students in both sections of the classes, an evaluation for the teachers, a structured interview with the teachers, and observation of the classes by the evaluator. The activities were focused on evaluation questions that included the following:

* Did the program affect students' knowledge regarding the rule of law, principles of the justice system, and the administration of justice?

* Did the program engage and maintain student interest?

* Was the curriculum usable by teachers? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Innovative AJS Curriculum Helps High School Seniors Understand the Justice System
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.