Saturday, June 24, 2023

"November 2021 CommonWealth Magazine Feature and My Course Preparation Journey - The Case of Prosecutor-to-People's Judge Presentation Skills Coaching (1/2)"

I've recently made it onto the 735th issue of CommonWealth Magazine, with the featured interview titled, "An Hour of Class Requires Ten Hours of Preparation: How a Pen and Paper Can Elevate Your Lessons." This marks the second time in the past three months that I've been the subject of a magazine interview. Both sessions center around my online teaching techniques. However, while the prior interview in the September issue of Parenting covered not just my teaching style, but also my journey to where I am now, this issue of CommonWealth Magazine zeroes in on how I use interactive lesson design and gamification to spark both online and offline students' enthusiasm and involvement.

Upon seeing the interview title, "An Hour of Class Requires Ten Hours of Preparation...", some might wonder, "Is that really true?" If so, wouldn't that mean six hours of lessons in a day requires 60 hours of preparation? Recently, I had the opportunity to redesign a special curriculum: The Prosecutor's Briefing Coaching Course! The feedback from the two cohorts that have completed the training is overwhelming – it's been rewarding, engaging, tiring, yet incredibly moving for the participating prosecutors. For instance, check out the following comments:

"I wish every law professor and instructor could take a lesson from A-Fu." - Prosecutor A

"When a complete stranger understands your struggle and is willing to do all they can to help, it is truly touching to feel understood." - Prosecutor B

"I've never had a teacher move me as much…" - Prosecutor C

Some may be curious as to how I, with no background in law, managed to create a curriculum that is not only useful and insightful for professional prosecutors but also practical for their future work. Let's look at how I prepared for the course, including the specifics of my pre-class homework, and calculate approximately how much time it took. 

Given the amount of material, this will be divided into two parts. This is part one: Understanding the teaching context and the learners. The process can be divided into three stages: expert interviews, preliminary information research, and understanding job content. 

As a preamble, I have been teaching the course on professional presentation skills for over ten years, so it's at the core of my training programs. I am so familiar with it that I can recite each slide even with my eyes shut. However, the course's target audience was prosecutors this time, which initially made me hesitant to accept. Apart from rarely working with public sectors and mainly teaching listed companies or a few public classes, I was also aware that the requirements and methods of general business presentations and courtroom presentations for future judges of the people would definitely be entirely different. 

However, upon further understanding the significant historical implications of the Judges of the People system and the prosecutors' role as representatives of victims in court, seeking justice, I felt a wave of enthusiasm. Moreover, the sincere preparations and invitation by Deputy Minister Li and Deputy Director Deng of the Ministry of Justice – both exemplary public servants on par with top executives of listed companies – were motivating. 

Despite being a novice in law, I finally agreed to the task after careful consideration and started my pre-class preparations. At this point, there was still two months to go before the official start.

1.Expert Interview:3 hours

Preparation had to start two months before the course began! The first two partners who came to mind, who specialize in presentation skills, were Attorney Kang-hui Lin from Rational Legal Services, and Attorney Shang-yu Lee from Cheng Yu Law Office. Both have undergone professional presentation training and both have exemplary presentation skills. Upon further exploration, Attorney Lin happened to serve as a public defender (that is, the simulated defense lawyer) in the Penghu People's Court mock trial, while Attorney Lee is a former prosecutor and a seed instructor for relevant training. I promptly arranged video conferences with these two experts, aiming to first understand their professional perspectives on court presentation requirements. I asked them about the vital and useful techniques they learned from professional presentation skills training. I first established the goal for the future training (confirming expected outcomes) and started identifying possible training needs. A big thank you to these two experts for giving me an initial direction. Including the follow-ups, the expert interviews took approximately three hours in total.

Preliminary data collection: 5 hours

From the expert interviews, I encountered several unfamiliar professional terms such as 'opening statement,' 'non-disputed facts,' 'disputed facts,' 'sentencing argument,' 'objection,' 'evidence prompts,' etc. As a layman in law, these terms seemed like alien language to me... But no worries, I have Google! Hence, I started a massive Google search on these unfamiliar terms, and at the same time, I began to understand the background information of the People's Court trial system... These materials were indeed challenging to comprehend! However, I absorbed as much as I could at the beginning, which likely took another 5-6 hours."

3. Understanding the job description of prosecutors: 10 hours

I wonder how much everyone knows about the daily duties of a prosecutor? I started off quite clueless about the day-to-day responsibilities of prosecutors. However, since I was about to join them in the classroom for learning, I needed to get a better understanding of their roles. This would help me form a clearer picture in my mind while designing the course.

I watched the 'A Day in the Life of a Prosecutor' episode from Tai Zhiyuan's 'A Day' series (1 hour)."

Prosecutor that you don't know

I also searched YouTube for interview programs about lay judges. Besides watching some participation experiences in 'Lay Judges - Hear What People from All Walks of Life Have to Say', I also found some professional discussion programs. That's when I first saw Prosecutor Liao Xianzhi's explanations in the show (he was the Chief Prosecutor of New Taipei City at the time, and is currently a prosecutor at the High Prosecutors' Office). Even then, I was impressed by how logically powerful and well-organized Chief Liao was... and it wasn't long before we met at a lay judge observation session! He also assisted me greatly during the course design phase!

In addition, I searched online for relevant books written by prosecutors. I read 'Twisted Justice' by a former prosecutor, which provided further insight into the interactions between prosecutors and law enforcement. I later supplemented my learning with 'Seeking Justice', a book written by an American prosecutor, along with various online resources.

During this phase, I truly watched a lot of videos and fully utilized the search function on YouTube. Sometimes I would listen to the videos while driving... (when I had no time to watch), and later I read some books... Let's count this phase as 10 hours!


Having done my homework up to this point, the vague image in my mind started to become a bit clearer. I now had a general understanding of why prosecutors need to learn presentation and communication skills, as well as a basic grasp of the lay judge system. I also had a slightly clearer picture of the daily lives of prosecutors, and I gradually familiarized myself with some of the professional jargon, as well as the overall context of the matter...

Throughout the process of collecting information, I genuinely felt: the work of a prosecutor is really tough! In the past, my impression was that prosecutors were in charge of conducting investigations (as stated in newspapers), filing public prosecutions (though I didn't know what a public prosecution was), and questioning suspects in court (without understanding the difference between an investigative hearing and a court trial).

It was only after delving into this topic that I realized: on average, each prosecutor has to deal with 80-100 new cases every month, and they are constantly being chased by cases! Some cases are complicated and require a lot of different investigations (such as major cases). Some cases might be frivolous, but they still require the compilation and presentation of case files. In addition, the daily work of prosecutors is divided into 'office work' and 'field work'. In the office, they have to handle new cases in their jurisdiction, such as drunk driving, theft, gambling, or even offenses against public morality. As soon as a case comes in, the prosecutor has to carry out investigations or interrogations and decide whether to release the suspect, allow them to post bail, apply for detention, or follow different subsequent developments. As for fieldwork, prosecutors have to go out and conduct post-mortem examinations (in layman's terms, to examine corpses! Scary!), and not just one... it's all day long! (Even scarier!). On top of that, there's a ton of paperwork, documents, investigations, and court appearances. If you're interested in learning more, watching the above-mentioned videos will give you a deeper understanding...

Each prosecutor has to handle an average of 90 cases a month, and they have to close 3 cases a day (assuming a 30-day work schedule with no days off, otherwise the backlog of new cases... would result in penalties...). Each case involves a lot of paperwork and official documents... and they have to deal with a lot of negative energy... This is truly not a job for humans, it's a job for superheroes!

Some might say: prosecutors earn a good salary! (100,000 - 150,000 per month). But when you look closer at the details of their work, the income per unit of time is truly dismal. In the same issue of Commonwealth Magazine (November 2021), the headline was 'Unable to Afford Houses and Overworked, Prosecutors Are Quitting in Droves'... Of course, some people say that some prosecutors seem to have some deviations in their behavior (yes, I've also seen related news!). But this should not be news! We can't tarnish the majority of dedicated and professional prosecutors because of the actions of a few! Especially after having close contact with them in class, my feelings have only intensified...

In any case, through the preliminary homework, I began to have some basic impressions of the participants in the class - that is, the prosecutors! I got a superficial understanding of their work, tasks, presentation scenarios, and future needs... It took about 20 hours up and down (actual working hours) to get to this point.

But it's not over yet... because this is just a superficial understanding! Next, I had to actually delve into the prosecutors' workplaces, that is, the lay judge mock courtroom, and even the prosecutors' offices, to get a closer look at everyone's presentation content... At this point, I realized just how big a challenge I had gotten myself into...

By the way, I hadn't even started making slides up to this point, let alone collecting material XD.

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