Friday, September 5, 2008
I was recently approached by a publishers rep and asked which textbook I use for my mandatory spring class. I don't have a book for my spring class; I cobble together pieces of different books I like to create a text for my spring class. I always require Getting to Maybe, but it is really not enough for an entire graded course. Many of the books I love (Expert Learning, Reading Like a Lawyer) I use during the first semester of law school. I need something more advanced that is tailored to the needs of second semester 1L's who are struggling after their first semester, and may or may not have used some of the great starting off right in law school texts.
What I would like to see is a legal skills casebook. The ed psych is pretty clear we need use the methods and lessons from the doctrinal or casebook classes to teach skills if we really want them to stick and transfer across classes and years. If we are using the casebook and, to a lesser extent, the problem method, in their other classes, we should have a book with a similar format to help teach skills. I know this is a tough order. Using Charles Calleros and Mike Schwartz's ideas about using non-legal cases or problems to illustrate the types of problems these students are experiencing, the "cases" in the imagined skills casebook would be the type of problems that are holding them back from achieving their best. Asking students to collaborate to find possible solutions these cases or problems would teach them some of the skills they need, and would ask them to use the skills they need to succeed in class to resolve their own challenges. While I am not a big fan of the socratic method, I do believe using cases and hypotheticals involving students own problems in law school would help them see why we use the socratic method. If they have to read a case or a problem in a casebook before class, and the skills professor is able to tweek the case and create hypotheticals about the problems that keep students from achieving their best. We would be using the same methods as their other classes, but with cases and problems that teach students the skills necessary for success.
These are just my preliminary ideas about an imaginary casebook. There may be a book out there that I have not found yet that meets my needs. I read a great deal, but by no means I have read everything there is to read in the field. My hope is that one day we will have a flexible curriculum based on best practices to help guide ASP, yet adaptable to the needs of individual students and the needs of individual institutions. (RCF)