NASJE “Article Club” Hosted by Curriculum and Education Committee

By Christine Christopherson, National Center for State Courts

What do you get when you cross a book club and a conference call? A “callinar,” of course! It was our pleasure as the Curriculum and Education Committee to host the very first ever “callinar” for judicial branch educators on April 28, 2016. For our first article we discussed “Do You Suffer from Decision Fatigue?” by John Tierney, which focused on a very relevant topic that allowed us all to learn from one another.

This callinar idea began with an article that Leigh Ferguson, NASJE member from Tennessee, first read shortly after taking her bar exam several years ago, and she said it has changed the way she approaches decision making. It sparked a conversation about how, as a committee, we might bring different types of learning opportunities to other judicial educators outside of the formal conference without asking already busy professionals to commit to too much additional work. The callinar seemed like a fun way to create a learning space that educators can really use to learn from one another and participate in a conversation. A wide variety of educators from across the country attended the inaugural 90-minute session, and to the committee’s delight, they actively participated and interacted during the session.

Tony Simones prompted the discussion with the question, “Do you buy into it (the idea of decision fatigue)? The first time I read it I thought, here we go again another way to make excuses for bad behavior. What are your thoughts?” Many shared their concerns about skepticism, but once those were aired, the conversation turned to examples of this very phenomenon taking place throughout the courts. Some shared ways they themselves have suffered from decision fatigue, while others offered ways it may apply to people with whom they work. Some educators also mentioned the possible need for food at conferences or even on the bench in the afternoon in order to avoid decision fatigue in those settings. Another comment reflected the idea that harder decisions could also impact the level of fatigue. Hence, those making higher stakes decisions could suffer from a higher level of decision making fatigue.

We wrapped-up the conversation with a question about the types of changes we can make in order to lessen the impacts of decision fatigue. Most educators agreed that they make the best decisions when they are feeling grounded, centered, and whole. Another participant shared some research about the biological factors that promote or detract from high performance. Another raised the issue of decision making and poverty — is poverty a trap? Does living in poverty impact the decisions people make? If so, what is the level of awareness of judicial officers in this regard, and how will that impact those we serve? Another great implication to consider.

In the end, it was the consensus of the group that in order to make real impactful changes, there would need to be buy-in from the bench. The group discussed when might be the best time to schedule sessions that might challenge the status quo. Another discussed providing better types of food at meetings and conferences to encourage better decision making and active participation. Another suggested starting with other working groups such as line staff or court reporters. Participants provided some great suggestions for working towards opening others up to this idea and making changes to have a positive impact with regards to decision making in the courts.

Overall, callinar participants enjoyed great conversation and appreciated the format. The committee will be hosting one more “callinar” on July 14th, 2016 based on the NASJE news article “#I am Fruitvale#: An Approach to Teaching Court Staff about Racism, Prejudice and Implicit Bias.” Stay tuned for further information and details.

Christine ChristophersonChristine Christopherson has been an educator for about 25 years. She has worked in Adult Education since 2003, with experience teaching Community Education, GED courses, Parenting, Domestic Violence, and Criminal Thinking. Christine became the Judicial Branch Educator for the State of South Dakota in 2012, where she was the sole staff member in charge of coordinating, planning, implementing, and tracking all education programs for court staff and judges. In 2014 she and her family moved to Williamsburg, VA where she accepted a position as the Curriculum Developer for ICM, primarily charged with revising and updating courses along with conducting and developing faculty development programs. Currently, Christine serves as the Curriculum Development Manager for ICM. She is currently a member of the Fellows class of 2017.