Thursday, October 13, 2011

Structuring a hybrid ASP-doctrinal course

After my post on retrieval practice, I have received a few questions about how I structure my Remedies course at UConn. It is an ASP-Remedies course for 2L's, with equal emphasis on ASP and Remedies. Before I go any further, I owe a HUGE debt of gratitude to Mike Schwartz for helping me get the course started, and for his suggestion of Remedies as a good subject matter for an ASP-focused doctrinal course. In this particular area, he is the master, and I am still the student.

After two years of trying to incorporate ASP into the Remedies material, I decided to try something different this year. So far, I am liking this structire MUCH better than how I have structured the course in the past. The first hour of the course is usually a skills lesson. I explicitly teach a skill, such as case briefing or outlining, using materials we have previously covered in class. The first hour of class serves not only to teach ASP, but also reviews prior concepts in Remedies.

The second hour of the class is Remedies. Because I only spend an hour of a three hour, three credit course on doctrinal subject matter, I remind students that the course is not designed to be a comprehensive course in Remedies, but an introduction to the material. Unlike a traditional law school course, I make my thinking explicit as I teach.

The last hour of the course is an exercise, either group exercise or a mini-test, but something that tests their skills so students get immediate (or nearly immediate) feedback on their learning.

A little more about why I chose this structure...

I put the skills lesson first because it allows for review. Another teacher could probably put the Remedies lesson first, and then use the skills lesson to reinforce the Remedies lesson. However, I am (primarily) a deductive thinker, and starting with a review allows me to help students create a "big picture" of the course. I don't think there is a right or a wrong answer here, just personal preference.

I added the last portion of the class this year, to reflect the lessons from this year's AALS meeting. I think it is important to note that my skills practice also asks students to think about other issues they will be seeing in future classes. So my skills exercise on the day we discussed damages for conversion had an issue dealing with unique goods. I didn't expect students to answer the issue on unique goods, but I wanted them to start contemplating how damages for conversion might be different if the good was one-of-a-kind. I think that giving students a problem before they see the issue in a case helps them better understand how the issue could come up in the real world.

Another addition to the class this year is explicit connection to Remedies in the practice context. I have to rely on the expertise of friends and colleagues for this part of the lesson, since I did not practice in an area where this was relevant. But even small hints about how damages will be relevant to my students when they are in practice makes the course seem more useful to them. I had the great benefit of speaking with a very experienced state supreme court justice a few years ago, and he shared with me the ways he thinks Remedies is one of the most important concepts for students to learn. I, in turn, share his lessons with my students throughout the semester, as well as the lessons of other practioners I have spoken with about how damages work in practice. (RCF)

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