By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
No, I don't mean that you should strike up a conversation with your current jurors in the elevator -- that kind of interaction is likely to lead to a quick mistrial and a contempt of court citation. But you should aim for methods of education that are as interactive as they can be. Educational researchers have long known that interactive education is more effective and more durable than passive learning, but the extent to which that is true is turning out to be even more striking than we thought. A recent study coming out of Carnegie Mellon University and reported in ScienceDaily shows that learning by passively watching is dramatically less effective than interactive methods. The 2015 study involved nearly 30,000 students and compared so-called "Massive Open Online Courses" or MOOC's with the schools "Online Learning Initiative" or OLI classes. Both are online, and both involve large numbers of students, but the former (the MOOC's) are based on the traditional model of watching and absorbing lectures, while the latter (the OLI's) are based on learning by doing, using an intelligent tutor rather than a lecturer.
The result? Students learn about six times more effectively in the interactive OLI's. Ken Koedinger, a coordinator for the project, notes that the advantage to interactivity is that it provides "deliberative practice opportunities." Students "get immediate feedback. If they do not master a concept, they have to go back to rewatch or reread and then demonstrate they have learned before they are able to move on." Then bottom line, as captured in ScienceDaily's headline, is that learning cannot be a spectator sport. The problem is that in a trial, jurors are expected to be exactly that: spectators. As the National Jury Trial Innovations Project's now-classic video points out, the analogy between a classroom and a courtroom reminds us just how little control and interaction jurors typically have. Yet they are still expected to learn what they need to know in order to make a fair decision. The trial model is wedded to passive learning, partially for some good reasons. That structure is not going to change because we can't reposition counsel as a friendly tutor conversationally walking the jury through the case. At the same time, there are a few things that trial lawyers can do during trial, and especially before trial, in order to leverage the advantages of interactive learning.