Santa Susana High School

Applied Legal Studies in the form of a Conventional and Competitive Learning

Environment

Tristan Hennerty

AP English 12 - Period 2

Pamela Bradley

November 7 2016

During my three years at Santa Susana High School, my main focus has been on

completing my requirements to graduate and be able to attend a good college. I took

classes that would test me academically and intellectually. Any elective course I took
was something I could enjoy, or something I needed in order to graduate. Exploring

Computer Science, AP Computer Science, and ROP Webmaster have been the only

courses I took because I thought I would enjoy them, not just because they were

required. By spending my time studying the technology, and applying other concepts I

learned in my Math and English classes into it, the more and more I realized it wasn’t

quite my area of expertise. I really enjoyed the subjects at school I always had the most

enjoyable time and the most favorable grades in have always been English and History.

and in 10th grade I decided to join the school’s Mock Trial program. Working with real

attorneys to compete in a county-wide competition, going on scrimmages, and building

a team has been something I have enjoyed that I had a great amount of fun doing, not

to mention how much I haved learned about the legal processes. from competing.

Therefore, that is why next year I will want to certify in law, next year. When the

opportunity arose for me to start up a competition between my local middle schools

arose, I jumped at the chance because I want to continue the legacy of Santa Susana’s

Mock Trial Program by initiating it earlier in our potential student’s educational

development at Hillside Middle School, and I worked closely with Ms. Gwenn Reep and

my fellow student Jennifer Jones.

I originally thought this task would not be too difficult, as much of it was being

supervised and carried out by parties other than me, but what I quickly realized was that

the more people you involve the more complicated things become, especially when

those people don’t follow up on their commitments. To begin this complicated process I

contacted John Tarkany and met with him to discuss logistics and other planning

procedures for our competition in April between all Ventura County Middle Schools. I
have also involved myself in the teaching and coaching of Hillside’s mock trial team. To

begin, I had to carefully research how to interact with students, as I had not been in an

academic teaching position before. I also researched how different methods of learning

affect different types of students.

To begin, I started by researching teaching theory as a whole, the basics of how

to teach, and how students learn. I began by reading Kathy Carter’s “Teachers’

Knowledge and Learning to Teach”, where she suggests the existence of an intellectual

barrier between the teacher and the student. This barrier must be broken down, and the

most crucial way to do this is to lower your language to match the level of understanding

your students possess. Understanding the information said by the teacher is essential to

the learning development of the student. Carter also claims that teachers must learn

about the knowledge acquired through the course they are to teach. I also learned that

“the intellectual work of school is important to student’s achievement in their social and

cognitive development.” (Marks), implying that student’s social and intellectual skills are

not in fact directly related.

Next, researching different types of competition and how that can affect a

student’s development inside and outside of the classroom, reading that risk taking in a

safe environment is always beneficial as a learning experience. “Taking risks can lead to

a favorable outcome” (Burt). This statement connects back to the classroom setting

through Tom Verhoeff’s findings stating that “competition and education are two

essential parts of both human and animal culture” (Verhoeff). Verhoeff also classified the

different kinds of competitions and related his findings back to the classroom. The

classifications of competition are; 1) intended objectives/accomplished effect, 2) part of
the curriculum versus outside the curriculum, 3) fun oriented versus serious, 4) artificial

context versus realistic context, 5) educational value versus public-relations value, 6)

spectator event versus participatory event, 7) teacher/parent participation, 8) organized

by students versus organization involves no students, 9) for individuals or teams, 10)

inter- versus intra-school/national versus international, 11) compete against others

versus compete against “oneself”, 12) skill-oriented versus knowledge-oriented versus

luck-oriented, 13) gender neutrality, 14) cultural and language dependence, 15) limited

rewards versus abundant prizes/awards/certificates, 16) one-time versus periodic, 17)

single day event versus multiple-day event, 18) fixed format versus free format, 19)

instant feedback versus delayed feedback, 20) single-found versus multi-round

tournament, 21) criteria for participation, 22) variety in knowledge and skills of

competitors, 23) aimed at everyone versus aimed at talented students, 24) diversified

difficulty levels (depending on age or school grade), 25) handicapping to compensate

for differences between competitors, 26) special training versus spontaneous

participation, 27) larger event including non-competitive elements versus isolated

contest, 28) degree of institutionalization (official rules, supervising body), 29) follow-up

to participants (defined improvement process), 30) bound to school topics or not, 31)

single-discipline versus multi-disciplinary, and 32) (commercially)

sponsored/government funded/self-supporting. (Verhoff). These categories can be used

in conjunction with one another to create specific combinations that result in either a

highly competitive and/or a highly educational environment. “It is not surprising that

education and competition are intimately related. On one hand, it is natural for children

to compete and, therefore, understandable that competition is put to educational use.
On the other hand, competition may be found so important in adult life, that a society

especially educates their young to compete. For instance, in Sparta, the most

prosperous Greek city in the 8th and 7th centuries BC, physical education was

dominated by contests, in particular the Olympic Games, where Spartans often won

more than half of the top honors.” (Verhoff). Here we can see a relation between

education and competition. My next focus in my research is how a specific type of

debate could affect a class.

Socratic Seminars are widely known to be a highly effective form of debate in

classrooms across the country, and even across our borders. Pezhman Zare and

Jayakaran Mukundan conducted a study on the effects of the Socratic Seminar on

students. They found that certain standards are needed when conducting this seminar.

“These standards include; clarity, precision, accuracy, relevance, depth, breadth,

logicalness, and fairness” (Zare). “According to the results, the participants’ postings

indicated low or moderate level of critical thinking. Although most of the respondents

showed critical thinking skills to some extent, a limited number of postings reflected high

levels of critical thinking on a consistent basis. However, the students’ critical thinking

scores showed a slight improvement from the first to the second discussions. It is worth

mentioning that critical thinking is a construct that may change and develop over time

(Darby, 2007; Gervey, Drout, & Wang, 2009). However, the study conducted by Hong &

Jacob (2012) employed only two sessions of Socratic discussions among them during

two weeks. Therefore, the students’ critical thinking skills did not show significant

improvement. However, the results of a study by Shahsavar, Tan, Yap, and Bahaman

(2013) showed that Socratic Method significantly improved students’ critical thinking
skills. They conducted Socratic discussions among forty undergraduate students for 14

weeks. The students had Socratic discussions twice a week, online and face to face.

The lecturer acted as a facilitator. The research participants were divided into small

groups of four or five members. According to the results, the students’ critical thinking

skills showed significant improvement as a result of participation in Socratic discussion.

Accordingly, it can be claimed that the types of Socratic questions and the number of

discussions are among important factors that should be considered when implementing

Socratic Method. “ (Zare). These findings were meant to discuss the use and

effectiveness of Socratic Seminars.

Given all the studies I had researched I learned that a highly effective way of

teaching kids how to speak their minds in a safe environment without giving a

competitive edge to it was through using a socratic seminar, something I myself had

participated in in four separate classes throughout my educational career. I pitched this

idea to Ms. Reep at Hillside to organize a few socratic seminars between our students. I

was able to attend two of the seminars. While the first did not go off as well as we would

have liked, after more practice and extra lessons we were able to organize and film a

full socratic seminar which went off perfectly. The question that was being debated was

“Which is better, Ice Cream or Frozen Yogurt?”, a topic that middle school students

could easily relate to and feel very passionate about. Students were asked to research

more about both ice cream and frozen yogurt to ensure they could give qualified

arguments for or against either side. Throughout the seminar, health was a major topic

of discussion. Students also touched upon personal preference and cost before settling

on a consensus that each person has their own opinions on which one they want more.
I also researched how competition affects the educational and social

development of students. I anticipate that the coming competition will be a trying task for

the two teams we will be organizing. I will be coaching one team while my partner

Jennifer Jones will be coaching the other. Not only will our students be competing

against each other, but also against other schools in and around Simi Valley. As of

writing this paper the first steps to forming the teams have taken place. I know that

some conflicts are going to arise between our two teams. To deal with that I am

prepared to analyze whether or not the behavior is healthy competition or a hinderance

to either team.

From my research I am fully prepared to support healthy competition between

every team that will be competing. I learned that while competition is highly beneficial to

the educational and social development of students, it also puts a lot of stress on these

students. I have anticipated this and I am prepared to deal with this should the problem

arise. Stress is not an easy thing to deal with as it can affect anyone and everyone

under pressure. The mock trial competition is no small burden, and everyone on every

team must be prepared to deliver their arguments. A team cannot function at it’s best

without the support of each and every member. I anticipate that every member of my

team will feel that pressure, and some may stress out over it. Stress isn’t something

easily researched or easily dealt with, but should the problem arise I can use the

speaking skills and teaching skills I have acquired to try and fix the problem.

Working with kids isn’t something I felt necessary to research in depth because I

have experience in this field. I have worked for four years instructing not just kids, but

also adults in martial arts. While martial arts and a mock trial competition are immensely
different, the substance and practice of teaching and coaching still resides within each

task I perform. I have spent about three months working with this class and I have

gotten to know each one of them well. The task of organizing both the competition itself

and the team is no easy task and I am fully aware of the commitment I have made. I

believe my research has aided me in truly understanding what the word competition

means to these students. I am excited to see how the competition plays out and how

each team does. Throughout my time in high school, my mock trial competitions have

always been something special. Even though my team has never won first place, I will

always remember our competitions. The ups and downs and the in betweens. I want

this competition to be something special for all the students competing.

Works Cited

Burt, Ronald S. Structural holes: The social structure of competition. Harvard

university press, 2009. Web. 9/19/2016.

Carter, Kathy. "Teachers’ knowledge and learning to teach." Handbook of

research on teacher education (1990): 291-310. 9/19/2016

Marks, Helen M. "Student engagement in instructional activity: Patterns in the

elementary, middle, and high school years." American educational research

journal 37.1 (2000): 153-184. Web. 9/19/2016

Verhoeff, Tom. "The role of competitions in education." Future World: Educating

for the 21st Century (1997).Web. 9/19/2016.
Zare, Pezhman, and Jayakaran Mukundan. "The Use of Socratic Method as a

Teaching/Learning Tool to Develop Students’ Critical Thinking: a Review of

Literature." Language in India 15.6 (2015): 256-265. Web. 9/19/2016

Annotated Bibliography

Burt, Ronald S. Structural holes: The social structure of competition. Harvard

university press, 2009. Web. 9/19/2016.

Burt describes his scholarly advice on how to get ahead and give yourself a

competitive edge. His main claim is that to turn any sort of profit you must be

opportunistic. Taking risks can lead to a favorable outcome, and by utilizing

practices of market prediction and networking, you can end up a lucrative

entrepreneur. The article backs this up by giving various examples of situations

where multiple choices could lead to misfortune while others could yield valuable

commodities.

This source is written by a professor of sociology and strategy at University of

Chicago Booth School of Business and was published through the Harvard
University Press. This article doesn’t quite seem factual at times as many

conclusions the author makes are solely reliant on speculative arguments they

make. It was published in 1992 but still holds up to this day. The article is well

researched and is highly relevant.

Carter, Kathy. "Teachers’ knowledge and learning to teach." Handbook of

research on teacher education (1990): 291-310. 9/19/2016

This article is about the study of “learning how to teach”. Research into

this has been less than optimal in recent years as we have not really been able

to “dissect” what it means to teach and how you can learn to do it. Teaching

education has focused on what teachers need to know and how they can be

trained, rather than what they actually know or what knowledge is acquired. For

example, teachers tend to simplify their vocabulary to match the intellectual level

of their students.

Kathy Carter’s credentials are unknown but she has an affiliation with the

University of Arizona. She continually cites scholarly sources and accredited

scientific conclusions in her work.The article is highly focused on factual

evidence found through continual testing. This article is fairly recent, just under

30 years old. It is well researched and still holds merit to this day.

Cooper, Harris, et al. "Relationships between five after-school activities and

academic achievement." Journal of educational psychology 91.2 (1999): 369.

Web. 9/19/2016
This article is meant to compare and contrast the effects after-school have

on academic achievement. By observing the different ways 5 different activities

help or hinder how students perform academically they were able to conclude

which activities lead to higher test scores and greater grades. After school

activities contribute more to a student’s success more than gender, grade level,

ethnicity, free-lunch eligibility, and level of adult supervision. Generally speaking,

more time spent in extracurricular activities and other structured groups and less

time in jobs and television viewing were associated with higher test scores and

class grades. More time on homework was associated with better grades.

Harris Cooper is professor in the Department of Psychology &

Neuroscience at Duke University. He earned a doctorate degree in social

psychology from the University of Connecticut. This article was created in 1999.

It’s claims are based more on factual evidence through testing than opinionated

and it’s arguments are still able to be discussed today.

Fallahi, Carolyn R., and Joseph D. Haney. "Using debate in helping students discuss

controversial topics." Journal of College Teaching & Learning (TLC)4.10 (2011).

This article is meant to support the argument that allowing a class to debate

openly in a controlled environment helps them reason and think for themselves,

especially in the sense of controversial topics. The author claims that many

instructors avoid talking about controversial issues in their classrooms altogether

for fear of alienating students and discouraging shy or less verbal students. They

also state that most students often view classroom discussion as valuable and

believe that participation enhances the learning experience, but not all students
choose to speak out. The ability to engage in a constructive discussion of

controversial topics fosters an appreciation of opposing viewpoints and is a key

element of good citizenship.

Carolyn Fallahi is a professor of psychological science at Central Connecticut

State University. Her claims are backed up by factual evidence but can

sometimes lead into opinionated speculation on the nature of students as a

whole. This article was published in 2007 and its findings and claims are still

relevant for discussion today.

Lam, Shui-fong, et al. "The Effects of Classroom Competition on Achievement

Motivation." (2001). Web. 9/19/2016

This article is about a study made to investigate the effects of competition on

learning motivation. The participants were 7th grade middle-lower class Chinese

students from secondary schools in Hong Kong. They underwent a 2-hour

typewriting course. The students were randomly assigned into either a

competitive or noncompetitive conditions. Results showed that competitive

students had better performance for easier tasks, yet were willing to sacrifice

learning opportunities for better performance. No other statistical differences

showed in task enjoyment, achievement attribution, and test anxiety however.

Dr. Lam Shui Fong is an associate professor in the department of psychology.

This paper was presented at the annual conference of the American

Psychological Association and was supported by the Quality of Education Fund

of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. This research holds a high

amount of merit and credibility as it is based off of scientific testing and results. It
is heavily reliant on facts and data and not many opinions are offered. It was

published in 2001 and its findings are still relevant today.

Marks, Helen M. "Student engagement in instructional activity: Patterns in the

elementary, middle, and high school years." American educational research

journal 37.1 (2000): 153-184. Web. 9/19/2016

This article suggests that the intellectual work of school is important to

student’s achievement in their social and cognitive development. The article

explains this by examining several theoretical perspectives to explain

engagement of school reform initiatives that are not consistent with theories. By

analyzing the consistency and patterns and how these affect engagement in

social environments.

Helen M. Marks is a professor at Ohio State University, Columbus with

expertise in Organizational Psychology, Psychometrics, and Educational

Leadership. Her article has been cited by other professionals in the field of

educational psychology. This article is from 2000 and is still relevant today.

Verhoeff, Tom. "The role of competitions in education." Future World: Educating

for the 21st Century (1997).Web. 9/19/2016.

This article begins by comparing education and competition as two

essential parts of human and animal culture. Both issues are considered

important and because of this, Verhoeff looks to find the role of competition in

modern education.
Tom Verhoeff is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Mathematics and

Computing Science of Technische Universiteit Eindhoven. His findings are not

accredited but are of mostly a factual basis. This article is reliable and credible.

Worthen, Thomas K., and Gaylen N. Pack. "Classroom Debate as an

Experiential Activity across the Curriculum." (1992). Web. 9/19/2016.

This article is about how classroom debate and competition can favor

students in learning skills of critical thinking and in defending a point of view. The

article uses scenarios of public speaking, general semantics, intercultural

communication, communication research, organizational communication, and

argumentation and debate with the goal of getting the students to think critically.

This article forms the conclusion that teaching debate in a classroom setting will

benefit students in the long run.

Thomas Worthen is a professor at Utah State University. He is a part of

the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. His findings are not accredited

but are of mostly a factual basis. This article is reliable and credible.

Zare, Pezhman, and Jayakaran Mukundan. "The Use of Socratic Method as a

Teaching/Learning Tool to Develop Students’ Critical Thinking: a Review of

Literature." Language in India 15.6 (2015): 256-265. Web. 9/19/2016

This paper discusses the Socratic Method as a teaching/learning tool to

enhance critical thinking skills. The author does this by reviewing the history of

the Socratic method, discussing how it is defined and applied, discussing how

critical thinking is defined, and by presenting a taxonomy of Socratic Questioning.
The idea behind a Socratic Seminar is that all parties must participate in a group

conversation so that all present at this seminar can clearly understand different

perspectives towards an issue. Many tests concluded that relatively low or

moderate levels of critical thinking were being used, however this activity was

also proven to significantly improve students’ critical thinking skills.

Jayakaran Mukundan and Pezhman Zare are international professors that

are part of the Department of Language and Humanities Education at Universiti

Putra Malaysia. He has over 96 published articles on subjects involving teaching

and learning practices. This article specifically relies heavily on facts and the

results of studies. It is reliable and relevant.

Zare, Pezhman, and Moomala Othman. "Classroom debate as a systematic

teaching/learning approach." World Applied Sciences Journal 28.11 (2013):

1506-1513. Web. 9/19/2016

This article specifies the pros and cons of using classroom debate as a

tool to instruct students. Higher education has often failed to equip students with

fundamental oral communication skills. Because of this, teachers are looking to

use communication more in their core curriculum. A good way to do this is by

allowing for classroom debate. Debate allows students of different backgrounds

to learn together in groups. Students are generally found to be pleased or be

happy with the debate while they are participating, and relatively low numbers of

them report feeling anxious or under distress.

Moomala Othman is an accredited author of many topics discussing

English Communication. Pezhman Zare is a part of the Department of Language
and Humanities Education from the Universiti Putra Malaysia. They are both

accredited authors and respected in their fields. This article relies on factual

evidence but does draw some generalizations and opinions here and there.

Overall it is fairly reliable and well researched.