By Steve Friedland

While attending the Best Law Teachers Conference in Chicago last week I was struck by how much I learned by simply observing terrific law teachers. I saw contrasting styles, from Heather Gerken’s Socratic Method, to Meredith Duncan’s distinctive discussion approach, to Rory Bahadur’s combination method. Actually, all three blended different methods and shared some basic characteristics. It was obvious that each was passionate, dedicated to having their students learn, highly organized and focused on learning outcomes, and had a structure that they intentionally shared with students. Just because they did not hide the ball did not mean they did not have high expectations; students were on notice that they needed to put on their learning hats while in the room. I took notes furiously on my laptop and felt like a student again – until my poor eyesight and creaky hands reminded me that my “youthful student” days were long over.

TEACHING RESILIENCE AND BEING RESILIENT : Filling Our Tanks This Summer

About a month ago, I had the pleasure of attending the annual AALS clinical conference held  in Chicago.   The conference focused on achieving happiness and resilience at a time of challenge in legal education while exploring methods for becoming “better” clinical teachers.  Clin14BookletWeb

The Keynote opening presentation by Professor Nancy Levit from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law outlined research about happiness,  lawyers and legal careers.   Professor Levit’s  book with Doug Linder, The Happy Lawyer: Making a Good Life in the Law, was published by Oxford University Press in 2010. Their sequel, The Good Lawyer: Seeking Quality in the Practice of Law is now available.  The Levit and Linder research helps answer questions for our students and ourselves about how and why lawyers find a  legal career rewarding.   Much of the research reveals that simple truths about happiness – such as feeling valued or being part of a community – bears repetition.   The presentation was informative and the research can be used in advising our students, supporting our colleagues and caring for ourselves.

After her keynote, panelists Professor Calvin Pang (University of Hawaii, William S. Richardson School of Law)  and Professor Joanna Woolman (William Mitchell College of Law) with moderator American University Professor Brenda Smith presented a few clips from a very realistic “role play” focused on a “devastating” day in court and the responses  of a clinical teacher, clinical student, and non-clinical colleague.    (The film will be available after the conference – I believe at the AALS site – for those who want to use it in their home schools.)  In the film, the law student  faces a surprising negative court ruling and then experiences his client yelling at him outside the courtroom.   In conversation with the clinical professor, the student expresses anger with his client and believes he should just “drop” clinic.  The clinical professor listens to the student and also explores other aspects of the student’s current anger and despair including his having received a number of employment rejections during this same time period.

The film was provocative and engendered good discussion about the role of law professors .  Many of us have experienced with our students or in our own professional lives the coinciding emotional burdens of dealing with difficult emotions in client’s cases and receiving negative news on the home or career front.   Managing and coping with all those emotions and burdens is a never-ending part of professional development and law schools can and should play a significant role in preparing students with appropriate skills, appreciation of professional values and coping tools.

In a final exercise, the entire room of about 500+ created word trees on three questions:

1.  What do you do as a teacher to “fill your tank.?”

2. What do you do to encourage your students to adopt habits to make themselves whole?

3. What are the barriers and obstacles to the first two?

In asking myself these questions and watching the hundreds of others eagerly participate, I reflected on the particular importance of the resilience, holistic, and happiness theme at this moment in time.   Students and recent grads need our positive support.  Institutions need our creative, optimistic energy.   But providing that energy and support can be personally tolling.

Student-centered faculty – and in particular clinical faculty with summer burdens or untenured faculty with heavy writing demands – must  carve out some real off time or vacation in order to be effective in the long term.  Their institutions must support their need for renewal.  Filling  our personal “tanks” with sunsets, summer treats (ice cream for me!), some  relaxing days, renewed commitment to exercise or getting outside, and time vacationing with loved ones helps form the foundation for resilience in the academic year.  We need to do this not only to support our own resilience but to equip ourselves with the experience-based wisdom that will be needed in great quantities in the coming semesters.  In order  to assist our students and our institutions at this precarious time for law schools, we need to nurture our whole selves now.

REMINDER: Educating the Transactional Lawyer of Tomorrow

Educating the Transactional Lawyer of Tomorrow
 
Emory University School of Law –  June 6-7, 2014
Emory’s Center for Transactional Law and Practice is delighted to announce its fourth biennial conference on the teaching of transactional law and skills.  The conference, entitled “Educating the Transactional Lawyer of Tomorrow,” will be held at Emory Law, beginning at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, June 6th and ending at 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, June 7th.
We are accepting proposals immediately, but in no event later than 5 p.m. on Monday, March 17, 2014.  We welcome proposals on any subject of interest to current or potential teachers of transactional law and skills, focusing particularly on our overarching theme:  “Educating the Transactional Lawyer of Tomorrow.”
Please submit the attached proposal form electronically via the Emory Law website at https://emorylaw.wufoo.com/forms/2014-conference-proposals/before 5 p.m. on Monday, March 17, 2014.
Beginning March 1, 2014, you can also register for the Conference at our Emory Law website at https://emorylaw.wufoo.com/forms/2014-emory-law-conference-registration/.
 
If you encounter any technical difficulties in submitting your proposal or in registering online, please contact Edna Patterson, Conference Coordinator, at edna.patterson@emory.edu or 404.727.6506.
We look forward to seeing you in June!

Assessment Across The Curriculum – Spring Conference

Assessment Across The Curriculum
Institute for Law Teaching and Learning
Spring Conference 2014
Saturday, April 5, 2014
“Assessment Across the Curriculum” is a one-day conference for new and experienced law teachers who are interested in designing and implementing effective techniques for assessing student learning.  The conference will take place on Saturday, April 5, 2014, at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Conference Content:  Sessions will address topics such as
·       Formative Assessment in Large Classes
·       Classroom Assessment Techniques
·       Using Rubrics for Formative and Summative Assessment
·       Assessing the Ineffable: Professionalism, Judgment, and Teamwork
·       Assessment Techniques for Statutory or Transactional Courses
By the end of the conference, participants will have concrete ideas and assessment practices to take back to their students, colleagues, and institutions.
Who Should Attend:  This conference is for all law faculty (full-time and adjunct) who want to learn about best practices for course-level assessment of student learning.
Conference Structure:  The conference opens with an optional informal gathering on Friday evening, April 4.  The conference will officially start with an opening session on Saturday, April 5, followed by a series of workshops.  Breaks are scheduled with adequate time to provide participants with opportunities to discuss ideas from the conference.  The conference ends at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.  Details about the conference are available on the websites of the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning (www.lawteaching.org) and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law (ualr.edu/law).
Conference Faculty:  Conference workshops will be taught by experienced faculty, including Michael Hunter Schwartz (UALR Bowen), Rory Bahadur (Washburn), Sandra Simpson (Gonzaga), Sophie Sparrow (University of New Hampshire), Lyn Entrikin (UALR Bowen), and Richard Neumann (Hofstra).
Accommodations:  A block of hotel rooms for conference participants has been reserved at The DoubleTree Little Rock, 424 West Markham Street, Little Rock, AR 72201.  Reservations may be made by calling the hotel directly at 501-372-4371, calling the DoubleTree Central Reservations System at 800-222-TREE, or booking online at www.doubletreelr.com.  The group code to use when making reservations for the conference is “LAW.”

Building on Best Practices and the Clinical Theory Workshop

Thought-provoking discussion at the NYLS Clinical Theory Workshop on Friday.

Definitions. Carrie Kaas reported on the “definitions” project of an Alliance for Experiential Education Committee chaired by Cindy Adcock of Charlotte. That committee is attempting to generate a common vocabulary around experiential learning — a set of common definitions for the overlapping and inconsistently used terms now in use. The Building on Best Practices project will need to decide whether to adopt that vocabulary, or not.

One of the most interesting, and challenging, tasks is to decide what differentiates an in-house clinic from an externship. Is it geography? Who pays the supervisor? A distinction rooted in pedagogy? Degree of independent role assumption? Or perhaps the distinction is no longer useful & and is ready to be junked?

I lean towards pedagogy & intensity of supervision, and degree of independent role assumption. Except when I lean towards junking the terminology and recognizing that we’re dealing with a continuum on multiple dimensions, as argued in Revision Quest: A Law School Guide to Designing Experiential Courses Involving Real Lawyering.

Sequencing. Cynthia Batt from Stetson presented her draft article on curriculum sequencing that is one of several independent articles spawned by the Building on Best Practices book project. Arguing for what I have termed the “layer cake” curriculum model, she conceded that the model is not necessarily the “only” or “best” model. But, she suggested, at schools where significant numbers of faculty are resistant to integrating experiential education throughout the curriculum, whether due to insecurity about lack of practice experience, fear of change, or other reasons, it is one that might have the best chance of implementation. Fair enough. A reminder to me that I’m at a school with relatively little resistance to experiential education.

Under the Radar Creativity. Cynthia made another comment that I’ve been pondering: “I am so impressed with my colleagues’ creativity, the kinds of work they are having students do that no one else knew about. Why are people so reluctant to talk about experiential education embedded in ‘traditional’ doctrinal education?”

That creativity certainly permeates my own law school. Based on a survey last spring, my colleagues are integrating experiential exercises into over 50 doctrinal courses. And they’ve created a long list of very creative simulation oriented courses, ranging from Venture Capital Deals to Supreme Court Decision Making to International Contracting.

So much of this creativity operates pretty “under the radar screen”. But I’m not sure it’s reluctance exactly. Lack of time? Lack of an appropriate forum? Understated, we-don’t-blow-our-own-horn Seattle manners?

I don’t know. But if our two schools at opposite corners of the country are representative, perhaps legal education has changed more than we know. Are we approaching a tipping point?

Helpful commentary on the perennial problem of political backlash against law school clinics about their choice of clients

Tulane Environmental Law Clinic director Adam Babich has put together a helpful piece, rich with deftly chosen citations from the likes of Ted Olsen, John Adams, and Justice Souter, to demonstrate the necessity of law school clinic independence in client selection, both for educational and service purposes. It can be found here:

http://www.americanbar.org/publications/professional_lawyer/2013/volume_22_number_1/twenty_questions_and_answers_about_environmental_law_school_clinics.html

In a few pages and accessible Q & A format, it is just as applicable to and useful to share with many non-environmental clinics, such as immigration student attorneys, who handle similar work (“involving complex regulations, administrative law, and disputes involving lots of documents”) and face comparable issues: on the totem pole of public unpopularity, undocumented immigrants, especially those allegedly convicted of crimes, may rank even lower than environmental activists.

My one quibble in presenting the article to students would be to comment on the use of commonplace phrases like “take the case” or “accept the case” or “reject/turn down the case.” I try to teach our student attorneys to think more in terms of “making an offer of representation” or “not prepared to offer representation.” It’s a subtle difference, I know, but not unrelated to the thrust of the piece in terms of the nature of the lawyer’s role, and a small way to reinforce the central concept of client as decision-maker.

Vanessa

Constructing a Seminar

One definition of “seminar” is: “a group of advanced students studying under a professor with each doing original research and all exchanging results through reports and discussions.” The roots of the word are from the German word of the same spelling, which means: “a group of students working with a professor,” and from the Latin word seminarium: “breeding ground; plant nursery.” To foster healthy growth of the seminar “nursery,” sessions need to be more than a series of teacher-directed discussions. We want the structure and requirements of the course to coax students into assuming more ownership than is typical of a law school classroom. At a very basic level, a question I am thinking about right now boils down to, “How do we best get students to stay current in the reading and pay attention in a seminar class, where there is no final exam?”

A recent New York Times article discusses a study where weekly quizzes were used at the start of each class of a large undergraduate Psychology course, resulting in increased rates of attendance and improved overall grades in the course. Is there a way to import this idea into smaller law school classroom to encourage completion of the reading and regular attendance? The ideas examined in a seminar, based on study and discussion, may not easily lend themselves to multiple-choice quizzes, but perhaps short answer quizzes?

Reading for and attending seminar classes are foundational, but we also need quality class participation from students. One way to ensure students are thoroughly ready to participate is to require students to write and turn in weekly essays reflecting on the reading and briefing any cases they read. But when a seminar course awards only 2 credit hours, students may balk at weekly writing assignments – voting with their feet by dropping the course. In addition, providing feedback on weekly written assignments can be very difficult for a professor to sustain, even in a lower enrollment course like a seminar.

What kinds of course requirements provide a sound framework for a successful seminar course? Which have you tried and discarded?

Social Media and Law Schools (an introduction)

Want an introduction to social media?  Earlier this week, my colleague, Andrew Brandt, and I held a faculty workshop for our colleagues at Villanova Law about using social media to build our community and showcase our ideas. Here is a link to the powerpoint we created for the talk (although did not use). http://www.slideshare.net/MichelePistone

Some of our colleagues asked me to follow up on how to use hashtags (#) and handles (@) on Twitter. I found this great one-pager, http://bit.ly/1bsh4oh, on using Twitter that may be of interest to you all.

If you are on Twitter, please share your handles with this community so we can follow you. And if you want to follow me, I am @profpistone.

A Rise in Alternative Careers Is Changing Legal Education

By Jill Backer Contact All Articles
New York Law Journal
October 28, 2013

In April of this year, Kaplan Test Prep did a survey of 200 pre-law students. Fifty percent of those students stated that they do not intend to use their future law degree in a traditional legal field. If this statistic extrapolates out to the larger law student population, we have a generation of law students of which only half will ever be practicing lawyers. So if half of law students do not intend on ever practicing law in a traditional way at a traditional firm—what is their intention? The answer is as varied and individualized as our law student population. The answer is also forcing a revitalization of legal education and at no time has legal education ever been accused of changing too quickly.

I often hear the term “alternative legal careers” being thrown around but I am not sure that this has ever been readily defined. Does it mean people who have not passed the bar? Or those in compliance positions, entry-level solo practitioners, or even legal educators? Or those who don’t work at a law firm? The answer to these questions and other questions is yes.

There is a lot of chatter about the definition and assessment of the jobs law students obtain after graduation. Back in 2011, the ABA, in conjunction with NALP, came up with the category of “J.D. advantage” to describe jobs that specifically do not require bar passage but do utilize skills learned in law school. The employers might have preferred candidates with a J.D. (or even required a J.D.), and the job is one in which the J.D. provided a demonstrable advantage to obtaining and/or performing the job. Interest in these jobs skyrocketed as the market fell, with more and more students seeking the J.D.-preferred positions when there were many less traditional positions available. In fact, in 2011, one in every seven jobs taken by new law graduates fell into the J.D. advantage category. (NALP Bulletin, May 2013).

In my opinion, the category and even the term “J.D. advantage” is a bunch of rubbish. Graduates in J.D. advantage jobs are sometimes every bit of lawyers as their brethren at firms and other traditional jobs. Today, lots of associate work and especially first-year associate work can rarely be achieved only by a barred attorney. I believe the legal community and its governing body the ABA are finally just coming to the recognition of what we already know—the J.D. is an agile and flexible tool that can be utilized in many forums.

Let’s face it, the opportunities on the traditional path for new law graduates are shrinking. Therefore, all professional opportunities can and should be defined under “working” and not put under some other nomenclature of J.D. advantage. There are few professional pursuits that would not value the analytical thinking and knowledge of the law and ethics that law school offers. This new category describing any deviation from the traditional path is not required and seems to paint in broad strokes a picture of these jobs as “lesser.” Jobs outside law firm associate positions are in no way less, and in some cases can offer much more.

Here in Brooklyn, there is a hub of a new technology age guided by entrepreneurial spirit and innovation. If a new graduate were to join a start-up business at a local incubator, is that a J.D.-preferred job? After all, while the graduate may not be doing legal work day-to-day, you can be sure that their legal education will be of huge use and influence in the new venture. In fact, you can bet that contracts and other issues involving the law would find their way to the law graduate’s desk rather than another employee. How do we say this is not a law job but a J.D. advantage, or perhaps because the employer did not specify—not even J.D. advantage.

Compliance is another area where the J.D. advantage term is overused. As recently as 10 years ago compliance positions were considered quasi-legal jobs. However, as regulation became more intricate, more and more J.D.s were hired into these roles at all levels. Today, most new hires in the compliance world are J.D.s. In fact, this is a huge and lucrative area of growth for the law profession. However, under the ABA rules, these are J.D. advantage jobs rather than legal jobs.

So here is what we know—there are fewer jobs in traditional legal roles for entry-level attorneys. New graduates are seeking out different opportunities due to fewer traditional positions and a real desire to practice/work in non-traditional forums. The ABA has decided to define any job without a traditional title—associate, staff attorney, assistant D.A., etc.—as something other than a lawyer. So where do we go from here? We need to change legal education and the ABA to fit the new reality.

Law schools have already begun a huge era of revitalization of legal education—some might say an overhaul. Some of these changes are meant to streamline legal education, others to provide more practical training. However, there is another factor that is changing law school: teaching to and preparing the ever-growing population of graduates that do not wish to practice in a traditional forum. Brooklyn Law School teaches a business boot camp and has a clinic that incubates new businesses in all facets, not just legal. There are other law schools that have language classes and compliance courses that are not rooted in the law.

These types of endeavors will help entering law students navigate the business world while utilizing their legal education. This string of classes shows a new multidisciplinary approach in legal education. The more well-rounded student is coveted by traditional and alternative employers alike. The old yard-stick used to measure future success was academic prowess. That is slowly changing as employers of all ilks realize that they need to incorporate softer skills and business skills as well as legal skills to keep their organizations afloat. Being a knowledgeable and ethical attorney is no longer enough to satisfy today’s legal market.

We are facing a turning point in the legal market. Law students are not focused on the same goals as a generation ago, as evidenced by the Kaplan survey cited at the beginning of this article. They are seeking out a new type of legal career that is not rooted in the traditional ways and definitions of law practice. The institutions of the legal market need to accept and understand that one way of using a law degree is no less than another. Law schools have to prepare these students as well as they do those engaged in the more traditional practices. Thankfully, law schools seem to be rising to that challenge.

Jill Backer is associate director for employer relations at Brooklyn Law School.

Student Participation in Class – how important is it?

Lauren McCormick:

I think this is very applicable for a US audience. The only issue is that the one portion discusses statistics particular to Australia, but the general message is an important one for all law schools.

Originally posted on lawschoolvibe:

Alex Steel, UNSW Law

There is a lot of research around that argues that students who are more engaged in class learn better.  For law students the simplest form of engagement is to contribute to classroom discussion.  That’s not always been the case – until the 1970’s Australian law students received most of their legal education via lectures.

Since then more emphasis has been placed on encouraging student discussion as part of the learning process – often called active learning.  For some law schools this participation occurs in tutorials, for others it occurs through seminar style classes that replace lectures. In some law schools this participation is part of the formal assessment (assessed class participation (ACP)).

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1Ls Less Distracted by Laptops Than Upperclassmen

Lauren McCormick:

Darlene Cardillo posted this on her Technology blog. I thought it may be of interest to everyone.

Originally posted on Instructional Technology at Albany Law School:

class

Another interesting article from the National Law Journal:

Law school upperclassmen are far more likely than their first-year counterparts to spend classroom time checking Facebook, playing solitaire, scanning sports scores or otherwise goofing around on their laptop computers, according to recent research.

Classroom observers found that among the 2Ls and 3Ls equipped with laptops, 87 percent used the devices for non-academic purposes for more than five minutes per class; 58 percent were distracted by their computer screens at least half the time.

By contrast, a mere 4 percent of the 1Ls observed during a civil-procedure course were “strongly distracted” by their computers, and 44 percent were never distracted.

The findings come from St. John’s University School of Law professor Jeff Sovern’s article in the latest edition University of Louisville Law Review: “Law Student Laptop Use During Class For Non-Class Purposes: Temptation v. Incentives.”

But he wasn’t the first to look at how…

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Free Upcoming Webinar: Flipping the Law School Classroom

Join LegalED for a free webinar on
Flipping the Law School Classroom

When:  Friday, Sept 27th from 2-3 pm EST

 What is LegalED?  Founded by law professors, LegalED is a website, legaledweb.com, designed to collect teaching materials for legal education.  The site is host to a growing collection of short videos (each 15 minutes or less) on law and law-related topics (substantive, procedural, practical skills and professional values), as well as classroom exercises and assessment tools.  The videos on substantive law could be assigned to students for viewing outside the classroom, in a flipped or blended learning environment, to supplement in-class teaching or to bring new perspectives into a course.  Here is a recent article about LegalED.

What is flipped or blended learning?  Flipped learning blends online with face-to-face instruction.  It uses the internet for what it does well – information and knowledge delivery.  When relevant information is delivered by online videos, face-to-face classtime can be devoted to learning activities that not only reinforce the knowledge, but also ask students to use their new learning to analyze, evaluate, apply or create material – all of which reinforces learning.

Registration:  To register send an email to: meeting@uif.org with your name and institution (participants will be asked to call into the webinar from a phone (with mute functionality, so as to avoid feedback) and should have access to a computer on which they can follow the presentation).

Register soon: space limited to the first 20 participants.
How the webinar will work:  We are “flipping” the instruction so that we can maximize the take-aways from the webinar through active dialogue and discussion.

In preparation, all participants will prepare (approx. 20 min.) for the session by:

(1) watching two short LegalED videos (each less than 6 minutes) on the topic of flipping the law school classroom  http://legaledweb.com/online-learning/;

(2) watching a short video on persuasive lawyering http://legaledweb.com/practical-lawyering-skills/ ;

(3) reading a blog post on how the persuasive lawyering video was used in a flipped classroom http://legaledweb.com/blog/2013/8/27/flipping-the-law-school-classroom.

The webinar is organized and presented by Professor Michele Pistone, Villanova University School of Law, with support from the Uncommon Individual Foundation, uif.org.

Cross-posted from: http://legaledweb.com/flipped-learning-webinar

New Blog

Teaching & Learning in Higher Ed. (ISSN 2329-2504), a digital project that supports teachers and reformers in higher education through encouraging serious engagement with the scholarship on teaching and learning has recently announced its full launch.

You can visit at http://teachingandlearninginhighered.org/

The website features a manifesto, an infographic, a list of recommended readings and a blog.

Submissions to the blog are welcome on an ongoing basis.

Since its soft launch in March, visitors have viewed the site more than 4500 times. Some of the most viewed posts to date (with links shortened through goo.gl) include:

Those interested can sign up on the site to receive updates of new posts by email or follow the blog through:

Please consider visiting, reading, following, commenting, sharing, and/or submitting posts to the blog.

ABA COUNCIL ELIMINATES ANY MEANINGFUL SECURITY OF POSITION FOR FACULTY AND TURNS ITS BACK ON EXPERIENTIAL FACULTY

As reported last week here, the ABA Council on Legal Education met in San Francisco to review proposed revisions to law school accreditation standards.  The ABA reviewed four proposals sent to them by the Standards Review Committee (which I described in an earlier post here) and which were intended to address  faculty competence, academic freedom and governance rights.   The Council sent out for notice and comment two of the four proposals. Some commentators have suggested that one of the adopted proposals includes some security of position and the other does not. However, a closer look suggests that neither proposal affords any meaningful security of position.  see National Law Journal  

The alternative that mentions security of position states that:

(d) A law school shall afford all full-time faculty members a form of security of position sufficient to ensure academic freedom and attraction and retention of a competent full-time faculty (emphasis added).”

At first glance, I optimistically thought “Maybe ensuring a competent full-time faculty would require something beyond at-will employment?” However,  I was reminded by a professional colleague that this proposal is identical to the current provision for legal writing professors, which has been interpreted to permit at-will contracts as long as the teachers are “competent,”  Undeterred in my optimism, I thought “Well ensuring academic freedom certainly needs to ensure some job security especially for folks like clinicians who have been attacked repeatedly for representing the powerless against the moneyed members of our society, right?”  However,  the ABA interprets that same language  in the clinical context to permit one-year renewable contracts,  as long as the institution has a “policy” on academic freedom,

As Amy Poehler would say “Really!1?!  Really!?!”    Is that really the kind of job security that will fill you with confidence in advocating  on behalf of seemingly powerless clinic clients or articulating unpopular but important legal positions?   And what about all this talk from the ABA and the profession about how students need to be better prepared for practice and the profession.   “Really!1?!  Really!?!”  How is that going to happen when you de-value those in the academy who teach through supervised practice ?   CLEA President Kate Kruse got it spot on when she wrote on the clinic listserv,

“Because tenure is now and is likely to remain the norm only for doctrine professors, both of these provisions protect current faculty power relationships and threaten the presence in legal education of teachers specializing in experiential education.’

That is not good news for legal education, law students or future clients.  REALLY.

A Student’s Perspective on Technology in the Classroom

I have been a student at two law schools now: one is the well-established Albany Law and the other is a new law school in Tennessee that just graduated its first class in May, the Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law. There are, of course, vast differences between the two schools, but my post today is intended to talk about the relative approaches to legal instruction in relation to technology in the classroom. Of course, each professor has his or her own methods for teaching any given class; however, there are stark differences between the over-arching practices of each school. While Duncan may not have the longest history as an institution, the school was able to develop innovative techniques regarding the  use of technology and progressive teaching methodology without being burdened by “tradition” or resistance to change.

Priding itself on its technology in the classroom, Duncan professors made prevalent use of audio-visual presentations (charts, power point slides, etc.) and computer-aided instructional techniques. Among the practices supplementing traditional instruction methods were daily “turning point quizzes.” At the beginning of each class, students were electronically asked a series of questions regarding the materials covered in the previous class; some classes graded these quizzes, others were merely for instructional purposes. The students would respond (usually by answering MBE-style multiple choice questions), and their answers would be displayed in poll-results format. Based on the results, the instructor was able to spot where the students lacked a complete understanding of the material and was better able to proceed with the day’s class–building on previous understanding towards a more complete instruction method. These “turning point” quizzes are similar to “Clicker” quizzes, except that the turning point quizzes could also have varied answer formats (such as short answer and essay responses).

The instruction style at Albany Law seems to be more traditional, that is, the instructor usually uses a modified Socratic method. I have been in classes that have taken a more practical approach, even including simulated cases–this is a somewhat recent addition presumably brought about by our Best Practices efforts. Of course, once the class period is over, there is typically little “looking back.” While material certainly built upon previous topics, the process is sometimes less clear. During the previous year (my first year at Albany Law), I found myself missing the constant feedback of the “turning point” quizzes and the ability to go back and review slides to revisit lectures if I needed clarification of some topic that was covered. I do not intend to say that my education was somehow better at my previous school than it is now–I have had teachers so glued to the textbook and their powerpoint presentations that they barely took time to actually teach–but the use of technology in the classroom to further outcome-based learning techniques was a crucial instrument to my learning process.

Of course, Duncan is in its relative infancy. The students did not have access to the clinical and practical experiences available to students at a more developed school with a more extensive network of connections. I would suggest a blending of the two styles: student-oriented outcome-based learning (perhaps through the use of reviewable technology and turning point quizzes to supplement the more doctrinal courses) and clinical/practical experiences.

If anyone can think of some practical ways to incorporate the use of technology in a class to further outcome-based techniques, please share your ideas in the comments.

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