Calling All “Contracts” Professors: What’s your favorite coursebook?

As we have been implementing Best Practices and Carnegie reforms, many of us have created or have made creative use of  coursebooks which facilitate Best Practices learning and teaching.     One of my colleagues will be teaching Contracts for the first time this fall,  she has extensive practice experience and has excelled at clinical supervision and clinical pedagogy.   What suggestions does the Best Practices community have as to her selection of a coursebook? Have you identified focused learning goals and outcomes?  How have you provided formative assessment?  How have you assessed for grading purposes?  Do not hesitate to “toot your own horn” or in this case – your own book!

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3 Responses

  1. I’ve used Blum and Bushaw successfully for several years and two editions.
    Biggest plus – excellent review problems after almost every secton. I assign many of them; sometimes have students work on them in small groups in class. They are well-crafted, realistic precursors of exam questions, and not overly-verbose.
    Another plus-introductory text in most sections situates the material.
    One reservation – the book does have questions relating to drafting and transactional skills, but isn’t as strong on this.
    I would like the cases to be more tightly-edited (I’m a short-case, not a long-case, professor) but the overall case selection isn’t bad.
    And the teacher’s manual answers all the note questions.

  2. I’ve used Crandall & Whaley (Aspen) for many years. It’s traditional in its coverage but innovative in its extensive use of problems. My syllabus and powerpoint slides can be found on West’s Law School Exchange (http://exchange.westlaw.com). Click on Groups, then on Recently Created Groups, then scroll down to “Contracts with Crandall & Whaley.”

  3. Thanks to Mary for raising this question, and for saying it would be OK to “toot our own horn.” Chris Kunz and I have been teaching with materials, about to be published in the West’s Interactive Casebook series, that have a number of advantages for teaching. Like other books in the series, it provides text boxes with comments on the text, supplemental information, and carefully placed questions, positioned in the text exactly where needed (e.g, where the students will encounter something that needs explanation or supplementation, or where the question connects to the analysis in a court’s opinion). That helps to keep the students engaged and understanding the material, and helps them to read more critically by showing them where the text should prompt further thought or analysis.

    In addition, the book contains what we’ve called “Reading the Law Critically” questions placed just before the relevant case, Restatement, or statutory material, highlighting for students the sorts of issues and concerns they should be thinking about as they read. Sometimes these questions address a cluster of related cases, to encourage students to view the cases as a unit and to synthesize them. We’ve found that students are better prepared for class because they have some guidance to help them read more effectively and analyze what they read. (This comports with “critical reading” theory and practice.) In effect, the book gives them a chance to think before class about the kinds of questions that their teachers have been thinking about for years. That makes class discussion better and helps students learn more effectively.

    We’ve also included lots of problems (some multiple choice, some essay, some drafting) to help students review concepts and engage in active learning. We selected cases we think teach well, often with particularly evocative facts and/or thorough and helpful legal analyses.

    In addition to the printed textbook, students will be able to use the textbook online, where they can follow live links to all of the cited cases, codified provisions, noted websites, and other linked material. We’re not sure yet how much students will make use of these live links, but we’ve found them very useful ourselves in preparation, making it easier to check on related cases and other materials. We’ll be able to add additional links and commentary to the online version (e.g., adding connections to new cases or interesting “contracts in the news” items) to keep the text dynamic. (For teachers only, there will also be an online teachers manual.) We hope others will find this new textbook to be as good for teaching as we have!

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