Water Rights: Articulating the Different Sides of an Argument

By Amy Cook of Raritan Valley Community College

Description #

The point of this assignment is to help students to read an article and understand its complexity by examining a variety of different positions on an argument. The method of achieving this goal is to assign the article to groups of four students and assign a role to each student. While this assignment was created by an Instructional Designer to be used in a Paralegal Studies course, it can be adapted for another discipline. 

Assignment #

Purpose of assignment: #

  1. You will be able to articulate the main concepts from the reading and connect these concepts to what we are discussing in class.
  2. You will be able to identify varied or opposing issues at play in the readings and gain a better understanding of the complexity of these issues.
  3. You will build skills in how to provide thoughtful written feedback to your peers and will build a positive learning community with the members of your group.

Reading for Hypothesis assignment: #

Justices appear divided over Najavo Nation’s water rights

By Matthew L.M. Fletcher, March 21, 2023. SCOTUSblog, Paralegal Brief.

Instructions:  #

Using your own words, each student will annotate the Navajo Nation’s water rights article as if from the perspective of one of the roles below. Follow the instructions for your assigned role and, based on that role, add 3-4 annotations to the document. Then, add 2-3 annotations in response to others. You can review a quick-start guide for how to add annotations.

  • SC Justice of Your Choice: Add questions based on the reading for the group to discuss. Be sure to identify which justice you are, and keep your questions/comments in line with how you think that justice would respond in real life.
  • Representative of the Navajo Nation: What are the main points of this side’s argument? What evidence can you give that these points are valid? What questions would you pose to the other sides represented?
  • Representative of the state of Arizona: What are the main points of this side’s argument? What evidence can you give that these points are valid? What questions would you pose to the other sides represented?
  • Representative from the Colorado River Trust, a fictitious environmental nonprofit organization: Although this is not a side actually included in this article, connect what we have read and discussed about the western water rights issue in class and make annotations about what both the Navajo Nation and Arizona may be missing in their arguments that pertain to environmental degradation and protection.  What questions would you pose to the other sides represented?

Feel free to use images, links to articles, videos, etc., in your annotations to help argue your side and explain how these connect to the text. Review instructions on how to add images, links or videos to annotations.

When replying to a classmate, make sure to add to the conversation by answering their question or building on their response. Here are some ideas on how to start an additive response to a classmate:

  • What did you mean by …
  • Did you consider …/ You might consider …
  • I connect with …/ It made me think …

Important notes about annotating:  #

  • Make sure you hit “post” after you complete your annotation, or else your annotation will not be saved.
  • Make sure it says “post to [this class]” and not “post to only me,” or else your annotations won’t be able to be reviewed.
  • If someone replies to your annotation, you will not receive a notification. Check back periodically to continue the conversation!

Grading: #

This assignment will be graded using the following Single-point rubric, with a possible total of 16 points.

  1. Annotations/replies demonstrate a comprehensive and thoughtful reading of the article. Up to 3 points.
  2. Annotations/replies demonstrate ability to conduct questioning and analysis and make responses in accordance with the expectations of a paralegal. Up to 3 points.
  3. Annotations/replies demonstrate intentional connections, interpretation, and/or reflection. Up to 3 points.
  4. Annotations/replies reflect original thought. Up to 3 points.
  5. Annotations/replies demonstrate correct spelling and grammar. Up to 2 points.
  6. Expectations for the number of annotations/replies are met. Up to 2 points.