On Trial


Students prepare for and perform a mock trial live or on video based on current events, literature, history, or any other conflicted situation. This Design Pattern lies in the intersection of the Venn diagram between judgment and persuasion.

Instructional Purpose

It is common that learners play a role while accomplishing a judgment task. Excellent WebQuests of this type have been developed within a mock trial format. A well designed assignment of this type will either provide a rubric or other set of criteria for making the judgment, or require and support learners in creating their own criteria for evaluation. In the second case, it is important to get learners to explain and defend their system of evaluation.




To evaluate something requires a degree of understanding of that something as well as an understanding of some system of judging worth. Judgment tasks present a number of items to the learner and ask them to rank or rate them, or to make an informed decision among a limited number of choices. Persuasion tasks are often combined with consensus building tasks, although not always. The key difference is that with persuasion tasks, students work on convincing an external audience of a particular point of view, as opposed to the persuasion and accomodation that occurs internally in a consensus building task. On Trial is applicable in almost any subject, lends itself to interdisciplinary WebQuests, and uses analysis and synthesis as higher level thinking skills. This WebQuest design pattern is appropriate for middle and high school students who are supported with techniques of appropriate scaffolding.


In addition to the teams of lawyers, witnesses, a judge, a bailiff and 12 jury members must be selected. This could become too large a group. The impartial judge and jury should be without bias. Topics for the cases should have prior instructor approval depending on the maturity of the class. Some firewalls might block research opportunities on the Internet.


You may wish to use a tag-team lawyer approach to this process. Using a team of two attorneys for each side within each group may encourage additional planning and preparation for the big day in court.

This Design Pattern was authored by Janet Miller