Adjudication Skills for the 21 st Century: An On-line Primer

Who should take this course?

This course is specifically designed for decision-makers who participate in oral hearings, individually or
as part of a panel. It may also be of interest to those who conduct “file” hearings since many legal
principles that govern the conduct of such proceedings are the same. The audience may include:

  • Newly appointed tribunal members
  • Tribunal members who want to deepen their understanding of conducting hearings and writing
  • Tribunal staff members

Why is this course needed?

This course offers learners a rich, interactive, and engaging exploration of relevant topics and provides
opportunities to engage with narrations and scenario interactions placed strategically throughout the

Learners follow the journey of two main characters: Chris and Tali. Chris has just been appointed to a
decision-making body and is relatively inexperienced, but he is happy to learn and is excited about his
new role. Tali is an experienced administrative decision-maker who has offered to mentor Chris. The
course follows Chris through a fictional tribunal case study where as a new member of the Tried ‘N
True Tribunal, he is assigned to the Nickel v. Rio Rail case.

The learner is asked to help Chris prepare for participating in the case as a panel member. In each
module, Chris has a number of questions that he is trying to answer in preparation for his role. The
learner gathers information, ‘consulting’ with different members of the tribunal, as well as Tali and
other resources. Based on this research, the learner then answers Chris’ questions.

Modules provide learners with the opportunity to reflect, analyze, and decide on actions and then
receive feedback on their decisions, with reasons for the recommended answer. The fictional tribunal
process allows the learner to explore the principles that are involved rather than the specific
manifestations of that principle in the fictional scenarios.

Many tribunal adjudicators in Canada do not have access to the on-site interactive adjudication
courses currently available, either because of travel costs or lack of available time or funds. As well,
many provincial and federal tribunals have members who are part-time and who work in many

This online course provides a solution to these challenges – registrants can work on the lessons at their
convenience. They just require a computer and access to the Internet.

Grading/Evaluation Approach

This course is built with many levels of informal assessment through the resolution of the various
challenges and interactive exercises. There is no formal summative assessment built into the course. There are no course prerequisites.

Course content

The course contains eight modules. Within each module, the initial set of questions is delivered through a narrated, interactive activity that includes an introduction to the topics within the module. The research is done through reading of information (text and images) with simple interactions (accordion, tabs, flash cards, quiz questions). Questions are answered through a narrated, interactive activity.

The following is a summary of each module’s key topics/focus.

Module 1: Introduction to Administrative Justice

The first module introduces the course, its purpose, and the overall approach to learners, as well as Chris and Tali. Topics covered include:

  • How to know when a decision is within a decision-maker’s jurisdiction
  • The growth of tribunals and where they fit in the rule of law
  • Statutory interpretation

Module 2: Aspects of Fairness

  • What fairness means in the context of a tribunal
  • Principles of procedural fairness
  • The right to know the case and reply
  • Key principles of bias, including common allegations of bias
  • Discussions of policy and law with non-panel members

Module 3: Ethical Considerations

Module 3 includes an introduction to ethics that covers information on independence, respect and courtesy, timeliness, collegiality, confidentiality, and open-mindedness and freedom from conflict/bias.

Other topics covered include:

  • Ethical conduct for decision-makers
  • How bias is determined and what should be done to avoid perceptions of bias
  • Specific guidelines around public contact and decision-maker conduct
  • Recommended practices around ethical conduct and diversity

Module 4: Case Management & Hearing Preparation

Module 4 helps learners understand the various roles and responsibilities involved in hearing processes, as well as how to prepare for a hearing. The module includes specific information on:

  • Hearing types
  • Rules of practice and procedure, pre-hearing procedures and case management procedures
  • How the decision-making model influences the type of hearing

Module 5: Conduct of a Hearing

Module 5 introduces learners to what a hearing looks like, as well as the specific steps and processes that take place during a hearing. Specifically, the module includes information on:

  • The procedural steps of a hearing
  • The procedure for preliminary decisions and those that arise during the hearing
  • How to maintain control and decorum at a hearing
  • Swearing-in witnesses
  • When, why and how – and how not to – ask questions as a panel member
  • Recording and note taking
  • Considerations for oral and written hearings

Module 6: Evidence

Module 6 helps learners understand what is meant by evidence; the relationship between evidence, facts, and argument; and how evidence is assessed. Key topics explored include:

  • Key principles of the rules of evidence
  • Procedures for receiving and evaluating evidence
  • How to apply the principles of admitting evidence
  • Guidelines for weighing evidence

Module 7:Decision Making

Module 7 explores key elements that enable decision-makers to make a decision and the skills needed for decision writing. Topics covered in this module include:

  • The what, who and when of writing reasons for decisions
  • The key elements of properly written decisions

Module 8: Wrap-Up & Next Steps

In the final module, learners discover what happens when a decision is challenged and learn more about:

  • Reconsiderations and appeals
  • Correcting errors in decisions
  • The wider professional expectations most decision-making bodies have for decision-makers

Learners are then able to complete a final knowledge check that covers material from the entire course and are guided to additional resources for more information.

Registration for this course is on CCAT’s website.
If you have any questions concerning registration, please contact

This course was developed in partnership with the Council of Canadian Administrative Tribunals.