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.