Day 4: Jen Chisholm's Making the Case
Name: Dr. Jen Chisholm
Area/Discipline: Gender and Women’s Studies. Research areas include reproductive justice, sexual and gender-based violence, feminist research methods.
In my course, we are trying to instill in learners a sense of how the theories presented through course materials (readings, case studies, media examples) are grounded in lived experience. Students learn to put theory into practice and are encouraged to make what can seem abstract, concrete.
One way that I have been able to accomplish this is through small-group work assignments that require students to think through a particular case study or example. The case study or example reflects a set of lived experiences to which students can then apply a feminist or social justice lens for analysis. In the past, I have provided case studies or examples in the form of documentaries or news media, narrative accounts, and legal case factums.
Prior to being assigned group work, students will have participated in lectures and class discussions about the feminist and social justice theories we are engaging with and so are ready to apply this knowledge to particular examples.
I break the class into small groups (ideally, groups of 4) and provide each group with a different case study or example. Each group is tasked with evaluating and then presenting their example to the class. Since we are often interrogating current social, political, and legal issues, I organize group presentations into a “moot court” or mock trial. Each small group is provided a case study, legal case, factum, or media example. The group is split into pairs, and each pair is assigned a “side” to argue.
The side a learner is assigned may not be their initial/personal view, but this is intentional to encourage students to think through viewpoints and arguments that do not necessarily align with their personal beliefs.
Learners use course material and concepts as the basis for their argument, presenting their case to the class. The student “jury” considers the arguments and provides a “verdict.”
This activity provides a learning moment for students to consider alternative viewpoints that ultimately lead to more understanding and more critical and informed conversations.
The process of interrogating case studies get us to a place where I can ask them, “How does (feminist) theory help us understand the world around us? How can we apply feminist analyses to this particular case/concept?”
How I Use It
After initial classroom discussions on gender, society, and the legal system, we look at case examples.
- I ask students to examine the facts of actual court cases.
- I break students into groups of four and then smaller groups of two (each group contains 2 + 2).
- I provide key details of the case using legal factums or media clips.
- Each pair in a group is assigned a “side” of the case to argue, using course material and theories. They prepare an oral argument and anticipate questions they may receive from classmates.
- We deliver the mock trial.
- The whole class reconvenes to discuss and decide on the outcomes/result of the “trial.”
- We debrief as a class, and learners discuss why they found in favour of a particular side presented and how their decisions took into account, or were based on, course concepts and theories.
Feedback from Learners
Students have responded positively to this assignment, suggesting that it makes them think about issues differently and provides them with a way to think through complex theories in a “real life” way.
Learners appreciate the creativity involved in the assignment and often remark that it is a nice departure from the written work and essays that are typically required of them.
Sometimes, students will struggle with having to make an argument to the class that they don’t necessarily personally agree with. So, I make sure to explain thoroughly (and repeatedly) that we understand the arguments do not represent personal views, and I make time to debrief about the process as a class. Students have also asked for the opportunity to state what they really believe after making their assigned case.
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
This technique can support change or development in this area by helping learners understand what some of the barriers to gender equality are, how systems and institutions can support or deny empowerment to girls and women, and how we can put theory into practice in order to make positive change.
A short task to challenge you!
The Grinch has been caught and brought to trial.
The prosecution charges that the Grinch has committed a number of crimes including breaking and entering AND theft! He did steal Christmas after all. He is guilty and should be locked up!
The defense (led by Cindy Lou Who) argues that, while the Grinch did commit these heinous acts, there were mitigating circumstances related to his mental health. He was not thinking clearly in the act THOUGH he did return all the gifts. The defense recommends community service!
One Final Task
Is this something you can use in your classroom? How might you utilize it? If you share your results somewhere on social media, please let us know by using the hashtag #12tech21LUDay4.