Interactive instruction about the law and legal system: (BACK)
Learning about democratic institutions and processes obviously increases students’ civic content knowledge. The content provided in LEAD focuses on law and the legal system, and according to research in law-related and civic education, when young people have a deeper understanding of this content, they are more likely to develop positive attitudes about law, authority, and the legal system and less likely to become involved in illegal activities.
However, the methods used to teach about law and the legal system matter. Students must be active, rather than passive learners. LEAD integrates interactive methods in every lesson. Lecture-based instruction does not yield the same results. In LEAD, for example, content is delivered to students through the plays instead of the facilitator simply talking to them about the content.
Opportunities for students to discuss issues that matter to them: (BACK)
It is important that students view the facilitators as knowledgeable and caring adults who are interested in what they think and have to say, so making opportunities for students to engage and talk about what they are learning is key.
LEAD is full of opportunities for students to discuss issues that are relevant to their own lives—and relevance is key because when students make connections between what is being taught and their own lives it dramatically increases their content knowledge, skills, and promotes desired dispositional outcomes.
Engaging students in discussion is important because it teaches invaluable skills: speaking, listening, the ability to have “civil conversations” about issues and controversy, perspective and respect for diversity, and critical thinking. Students get immediate feedback through discussion rather than writing their thoughts and waiting for the teacher to grade and return their papers, plus students are able to interact with adults and their peers in positive ways through discussion activities. For students who struggle with reading and writing, discussion provides a way for them to express what they know.
Finally, the discussion of laws and the legal system provides a protective factor in that students gain an understanding about the role and need for laws, the function of the legal system and its structure and key concepts such as innocent until proven guilty.
Forming a trusting relationship with adults from the legal field: (BACK)
Years of research in law-related education demonstrate the positive impact that “outside resource people” have on increasing students’ content knowledge and positive dispositions. That professionals from the legal field have more law-related content knowledge than the typical classroom teacher is obvious, but the strength in providing opportunities for students to have positive relationships with caring adults, especially adults in fields of authority (police, prosecutors, judges) is powerful as a protective factor in delinquency prevention. Because LEAD is typically delivered in underserved communities, these students can particularly benefit by having positive adult role models who care about them.
Inclusion of refusal skills (F.I.N.A.L.) as opposed to “just say no” messaging: (BACK)
The LEAD lessons provide many opportunities for students to develop problem-solving skills, perspective, and reasoning. The refusal skills lesson is key and is placed in the curriculum so that students have already practiced certain critical thinking skills, and more importantly, have already established a relationship with their LEAD facilitator.
Studies in substance abuse prevention have demonstrated that young people are better equipped to cope with peer pressure when they have learned and practiced refusal skills rather than having been taught to just say no. Youth are susceptible to caring more about what others think about them than considering consequences of negative behaviors. Refusal skills are comprised of responses youth can make in typical peer pressure situations, giving them a way out of becoming involved in risky or illegal activities while still keeping what they perceive as their dignity.
Opportunities for students to explore contemporary issues including tolerance for diversity, staying in school, and anti-bullying: (BACK)
LEAD provides lessons on contemporary topics that are relevant to students. These lessons include activities that help students develop responsible decision-making and other critical-thinking skills, positive civic dispositions, and “development assets” thought to reduce risky and delinquent behavior. It is not only the content of lessons on such topics, it is also the activity when students apply the content that matters.
Simulation and role play activities related to democratic processes: (BACK)
Simulation and role play activities offer opportunities for students to practice taking part in democratic processes; gain perspective as they take on the roles of adult citizens, policy-makers, attorneys, judges, and others associated with democratic institutions; and develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills as they grapple with hypothetical problems and situations. Further, law-related education simulations and role plays, such as those in LEAD, promote content knowledge about law and the legal system, open students’ minds to possible professions in the field, and reinforce respect for and trust in the legal system.