Friday, August 23, 2013
This week all the students came back to school; it's wonderful. I am teaching Property for the first time, to evening students. Teaching a 1L course for the first time is nerve-wracking, although I have eight years experience teaching at the law school level, and five years teaching doctrinal courses. I had prepared all summer. I had retreated to my father's distraction-free vacation house in Vermont to cram for four days before the start of the semester, just in case there was something I missed during my summer-long preparation. I didn't feel ready (I never do), but I knew I had done everything I could to prepare for this course.
Yesterday was my first Property class. I had planned for an interactive class, exploring the origins of Property law and the theories behind the development of Property. I planned to use a series of images to show how legal positivism effected our understanding of property as a government-regulated set of rights and duties. And then...the projector did not work. A call to IT later, I learned that it started overheating earlier in the day, and it could not be fixed for class. I had 2 minutes, and I had to re-work my lesson plan, removing the discussion and the use of images.
Teaching snafus happen, usually at the least opportune time. It was my first class, at a new school, with new students. Yet the class was a success. It was not as good as my original lesson plan, but the students didn't know what they were missing. The students were excited to have a class that focused on discussion.
New teachers see veteran teachers with their class, but they rarely see the snafus that are a normal part of the teaching process. There is no magic to avoiding teaching snafus. I over-prepare for class, because I live in terror of losing my memory and having nothing to say to students. Although I wanted to use images to illustrate complex theoretical concepts, I knew the material well enough to teach it in myriad ways. Other veteran teachers prepare just enough, and trust the teacher-student interaction, fueled by intellectual curiosity, to carry them through any mishaps.
Trust your students. They want to learn. Even when a topic is new to you, you have more experience than your students. You have have enough material to impart the lessons they need.
New teachers...snafus will happen. (RCF)
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Students often ask how to determine which concepts in a case should end up as part of the case brief’s reasoning section. Because judges do not simply ramble in their opinions, every sentence is an important part of the reasoning that drives the opinion. Therefore, what should students capture in their case briefs?
The answer lies in one of the key purposes of briefing cases: identifying the legal principles and the logical steps that will be necessary for resolving similar issues on an exam. In other words, students should learn to brief cases the way lawyers brief them – to draw out the analytical templates courts use when addressing particular issues. In doing so, students will not only begin preparing themselves for their exams, they will accomplish the most important purpose of briefing cases: training themselves to think like lawyers and judges.
They should focus the reasoning portion of their briefs on the future. They should ask themselves which concepts will be useful to them when they are answering an exam question; those are the ones they want to capture and later put into an outline that will guide their analyses on the exams.
Below is a list of the types of concepts students should watch for, not only in the cases but also in class discussions. In fact, if they print off this list and keep it next to them when they are in class and when they are reading and briefing for class, they may find it easier to separate the important concepts from the background and case-specific concepts that will not likely drive a future analysis.
WHAT SHOULD YOU BE GETTING FROM READINGS AND CLASS DISCUSSIONS?
Key themes running through the course
Accurately stated rules
Precise understanding of the logic underlying the rules, tests, definitions, and their
corollaries and exceptions
Key policy aims underlying each rule, etc.
Essential steps in the logic of applying each rule, etc.
Critical similarities and differences among rules, among tests, etc.
Critical attributes of facts that satisfy or do not satisfy the rules, definitions, etc.
Archetypal fact patterns that implicate each rule
i.e., what dynamics are always present when a particular rule is implicated?
E.g., transferred intent in battery: one person always propels something toward another and hits a third person instead. The means could be throwing, driving, mailing, pushing, or any of a thousand other means. The dynamics always boil down to the same thing.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
The following announcement was posted on the Balance in Legal Education listserv by Mike Schwartz and may be of interest to many ASP'ers who also teach other classes:
Please save the date for the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning's Summer Conference hosted by Northwestern University School of Law, "What the Best Law Teachers Do," June 25 - 27, 2014, in Chicago.
Published by Harvard University Press and currently sweeping the legal blogs, What the Best Law Teachers Do introduces readers to twenty-six professors from law schools across the United States, featuring close-to-the ground accounts of exceptional educators in action. Join us to
interact with these instructors and learn more about their passion and creativity in the classroom and beyond.
Confirmed presenters at this conference include Rory Bahadur (Washburn University School of Law), Cary Bricker (University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law), Roberto Corrada, (University of Denver, Sturm College of Law), Meredith Duncan (University of Houston Law Center), Paula
Franzese (Seton Hall University School of Law), Heather Gerken (Yale Law School), Nancy Knauer (Temple University, James E. Beasely School of Law), Andy Leipold (University of Illinois College
of Law), Julie Nice (University of San Francisco School of Law), Ruthann Robson (CUNY School of Law), Tina Stark (retired, formerly Boston University School of Law), and Andy Taslitz (American University Washington College of Law).
The co-authors of What the Best Law Teachers Do, Sophie Sparrow, Gerry Hess, and Michael Hunter Schwartz, will provide a framework for the presentations and a global sense of the takeaway lessons from their study.
Presenters teach a wide variety of courses across the curriculum including administrative law, civil procedure, clinics, constitutional law, criminal law, criminal procedure, election law, family law,
labor law, legal writing, pretrial advocacy, professional responsibility, property, sexuality and the law, torts, transactional drafting, and trial
Please mark your calendars for June 2014.
Michael Hunter Schwartz | Dean and Professor of Law UALR
William H. Bowen School of Law
(o) 501.324.9450 | (f) 501.324.9433
twitter.com/deanmhschwartz | ualr.edu/law [email protected]
Tuesday, August 20, 2013