December 20, 2009
Reflections on Twenty Years of Law Teaching: A Great Article by UCLA Prof. Stephen Bainbridge
I have learned a few things over the past couple of years following Prof. Bainbridge's blog. His article on the UCLA Law Review website can be accessed here. I would not say we agree on a lot, especially politically, but he gets me thinking.
I certainly employ the "soft Socratic" method of teaching. Call on a volunteer to review an assigned case or answer a question and then help when they get stuck in the response - give them a straight answer at the end of the discussion, write it on the board.
But I part ways with Steve on whether law schools are supposed to teach students "to think like lawyers." That is my goal in teaching and I think that is by far the accomplishment of a law student by the end of the law curriculum. I did not realize that until I taught first year contracts after about ten years of teaching the Uniform Commercial Code to third year students. I kept writing on exam answers from first year students, "This is not political science class." "This is not sociology." State the issue, state the rule, and apply the rule to the facts. Students do not have difficulty learning the rules (the few rules which are actually important to learn). They have a terrible time applying the rules to Mr. Jones sitting in your office with a problem that needs resolution. Often the student will set forth the correct issue and rule, and then abandon the rule entirely because "in this case it's unfair to make Mr. Jones pay for the goods." They have a terrible time telling Mr. Jones he blew it. He better pay.
But the article has motivated me to give power point a shot. I have used it a little but never handed out a power point presentation to students. It has motivated me to think about how to use all those electronic gadgets students are staring at during class - in a positive way - rather than just continuing to whine about it.
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