Thursday, May 15, 2014
1) I was not the only person who went to law school because I was terrified of math and accounting. Many of my students did too, which made teaching this required course much harder even after I explained to them how much accounting I actually had to understand as a litigator and in-house counsel.
2) I will always make class participation count toward the grade. Apparently paying tens of thousands of dollars a year for an education is not enough to make some students read their extremely expensive textbooks. A 20% class participation grade is a great incentive. Similarly, I will never allow laptops in the classroom. The subject matter is tough enough without the distraction of Instagram, Facebook and buying shoes on Zappos.
3) Students come to a required course with a wide range of backgrounds- some have never written a check and others have traded in stocks since they were teenagers and use Bitcoin. Teaching to the middle is essential.
4) As I suspected, when students are allowed to use an outline for an exam, they won't study as hard or as thoroughly, and I will grade harder.
5) Never underestimate how little many students know about the basics of how businesses operate. No matter how smart they are, many students have simply had no exposure to any kind of business. For some of them it's almost like taking civil procedure all over again in terms of difficulty. (I taught that for the first time too).
6) Balanced public policy discussions can get even the quietest students to participate. On the last day of class we debated the purpose of the corporation using benefit corporations, Citizens United and Hobby Lobby as vehicles for discussion. They did all of the readings and watched the assigned videos for class, leading to some of the richest discussion of the year.
7) Law students say they hate to work in groups, but many of them thrive and take leadership roles they wouldn't normally assume, especially when they know that this work also counts toward their class participation grade. They also learn to take risks in small group discussion that they might not normally take in front of the whole class.
8) Using a game for a review works really well. I used a modified Jeopardy format and allowed groups to work in teams. The competitive nature of the students came out and it also provided a more interesting and lively review than the standard lecture.
9) It's really important to match your textbook to teaching style, learning objectives and type of student.
10) Even the most "terrified" law student can learn to like business associations. I have had several students email me to say they miss the course because they have no one with whom to discuss current business issues. That warms my heart.
There are a number of things I will change next semester. I'm looking forward to learning from more seasoned business law professors at the Emory Conference on Teaching Transactional Law in 2 weeks.