If you’re a teacher, parent or even a student yourself, you know that it can be challenging to keep educational content engaging. However, fourth-year Bachelor of Arts/Laws (Hons) student Chelsea Rock developed a creative solution to this age-old dilemma.
Chelsea undertook Selected Topics in Australian-United States Comparative Laws (LAWS4257) in winter last year. Jointly taught by academics from The Australian National University and the University of Alabama Law School, the focus of last year’s course was Comparative Supreme Courts.
Students in the course are encouraged to think creatively about communicating their research findings to non-legal audiences through non-traditional assessment formats. Chelsea decided to create a website under the theme ‘Bold and Brilliant – The Women pioneering the Judicial System’ aimed at a younger demographic.
“I chose a website because I thought it would be quite challenging as I had no prior experience in website creation. I thought it might teach me new skills,” said Chelsea, a Political Science major.
Although there are abundant maths and literacy websites that cater to students, there are few if any for judicial law – something Chelsea was determined to address.
Her website aims to teach students in years 5 to 8 about each of the nine women justices of the US Supreme Court and the High Court of Australia. Among these women is Sandra Day O’Connor, who was the first female on the US Supreme Court in 1981 and Susan Kiefel, who is the first female Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. Each of these nine women’s responses to decision making and voting preferences, within their apex courts, is also explored.
When Chelsea first began her assessment research, she was shocked by what she had discovered.
“I was disappointed to find out that there have only been nine women in the US and Australia who have had the honour of being in the High Court or the Supreme Court. It shocked me because if you put the two lifespans of the courts together, it is quite a significant amount of time. The fact that there have only been nine women who have served is quite shocking to me,” said Chelsea.
Chelsea’s website included an overview of both judicial systems and their differences, a teacher’s resource section and additional interactive resources, which included Kahoot quizzes and games. These activities aim to facilitate students’ engagement with the learning material, with emphasis on individualised pace and self-correction.
“The intended audience for this website is students aged 10 to 14, as their comprehensive skills in literacy and humanities will allow them to engage with the material effectively without being too difficult,” said Chelsea.
This course appealed to Chelsea as she had previously completed the US Politics (POLS2127) in the second year of her studies, which fostered her curiosity in the country’s judicial system.
“I find it interesting that we have taken aspects of the US Constitution and their structure of government and applied it to our own (in Australia),” said Chelsea.
Reflecting on Selected Topics in Australian-United States Comparative Laws (LAWS4257), Chelsea said it had been one of her most rewarding academic experiences.
“I loved this course. To date, it has been my favourite in both challenging me but also intriguing me because of the creative (assessment) format. Sometimes essays can be quite rigid in terms of how we are supposed to convey our understandings,” she noted.
Creating a website allowed room for Chelsea to be creative and implement interactive elements. The content makes for an engaging learning experience for the younger demographic, who may normally struggle to stay focused and pay attention.
Although Chelsea does not know what the future holds after she completes her studies, she is sure of one thing. “I want to inspire women who are thinking of entering the legal profession, and I want them to realise there are incredible people out there pioneering the way for the younger generation,” she said.