English Program 'Guilty or Not Guilty? That is the Question' Sees Student Achievement Soar

Latest News Wednesday, 16 Nov 2022

An innovative program delivered through the lens of the Australian justice system saw 90% of students attain a High Achievement or greater.

St James College, Brisbane has been preparing students for life after school since it was established in 1868. Education in the late 1800’s was characterised by numeracy, literacy, general knowledge, and work readiness. 

In 2023, these subjects are still essential, and in the lightning-paced modern society that is global, digital, and ever changing, the development of human-centric skills is critical.

Whilst looking for an innovative way to teach Extension English and problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and leadership skills, the ‘Guilty or Not Guilty? That is the Question’ program was conceived.

Co-created by English teachers Mr Thomas Corkery, who also has a law degree, and Acting Head of Faculty, English and Languages, Ms Alicia Thompson said, “We wanted to create a real-world context for learning with an authentic form of assessment.”

“The Year 9 study unit is focused on enquiry-based problem solving where students critically examine a mock crime scene and legal cases through the lens of the Australian criminal justice system.”

“Students looked at evidence, analysed case files and delivered evidence-based persuasive arguments to influence whether a case would be taken on by a lawyer,” said Ms Thompson.

As part of the program, the mock crime scene was set up so students could learn and apply investigative skills while trying to solve a mysterious murder. They attended a hearing at the District Court and witnessed processes that take place in a court session. They also toured the QEII Courts of Law building where they learned about courtroom layouts, and the roles people play during a hearing.

Year 9 student Luis said he gained better listening skills by participating in the program, while his classmate Teja said her writing, researching and teamwork skills improved.

Further Ms Thompson said that these are the skills employers are looking for, not necessarily just good grades.

“Before the program, we saw students working very individually, now, they are working in groups, collaborating, assigning roles, and we saw natural leaders popping up too.”

“I’ve never seen the students so engaged, and with 90% of students attaining High Achievement or greater, their results prove the success of the program,” Ms Thompson said.

St James College, Brisbane Director of Learning, Innovation and Pathways, Jessica Turschwell said the program is developing 21st Century skills in students as they engage with English in an innovative, interesting, and interactive format.

“We are preparing our students for the workplaces of tomorrow.”

“Our graduates need to be multiskilled, have high emotional intelligence, be able to communicate effectively, and be productive members of teams - face to face and in a virtual setting,” Ms Turschwell said.