Students choose to enroll in law school. They arrive on the first day excited to begin learning the law. Unfortunately, most students lose this excitement for learning somewhere on the road to graduation, and instead, turn their interest to actually practicing. In a recent article, Critical Enculturation: Using Problems to Teach Law, Professor Keith Hirokawa of Albany Law School demonstrates how Problem-Based Learning (PBL) can push students to once again engage their education in law with passion — passion for their chosen profession and the subject matter at hand.
Professor Hirokawa uses his land use planning course to illustrate the PBL approach, and provides several examples of activities that force students to tackle issues that the students could conceivably face as clients. The activities include: requiring students to determine whether she would be able to hang a shingle and open a solo law practice at her residence; turning the classroom into multiple zoning districts; and assigning students to advocacy groups to represent the interests of identified clients in case simulations.
Professor Hirokawa is not the only professor at Albany Law School who is writing about engaged teaching and innovative activities in scholarly papers. Associate Dean Patricia Salkin (a frequent contributor to this blog) believes that courses in Land Use Planning can be the perfect ground for implementing the strategies of Best Practices. Dean Salkin states that “unique opportunit[ies] exist through the application of many “best practices” concepts for land use law faculty to lead the academy in reinventing curriculum and teaching strategies to better prepare students for the practice of law” in her new paper, Practically Grounded: Convergence of Land Use Law Pedagogy and Best Practices, which is co-authored by John R. Nolon.