Monday, September 8, 2014
Over the past year, I have been working with my undergraduate institution's Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Initiative (SoTL). Throughout this effort, I have been amazed while learning about various methdologies used among other discplines. Conversley, at times, I have been driven into the depths of despair (slight exageration) at the woefully inadequate measures of my own, and a fair amount of law school, teaching.
I found this most recent article, passed along from SoTL, to be illuminating, and I wanted to share it with my clinical colleagues (who I am now "tagging" with the responsibility of continuing to pass the article along to other educators).
In sum, the article is based on a recent study by Elizabeth Ligon Bjork, professor of psychology at UCLA, and postdoc research associate, Nichoals Soderstrom, who found that pre-testing students (helping them realize how much information they are lacking from the start), can be effective for improving academic performance and retention. "Bjork’s experiment suggests that pretesting serves to prime the brain, predisposing it to absorb new information."
It's incredible how such a seemingly simple flip can have a significant impact in the classroom....This article, along with my SoTL work, have made it very clear that I have "miles to go before I sleep..."
The author of the New York Times article is Benedict Carey. [On a side note, apart from reporting for the Times, Mr. Carey also has a book coming out later this month "How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where and Why It Happens."]
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Below is a trailer for a movie that I am planning on seeing this summer...that is if I can find it within a 300 mile radius of Spokane, Washington. "The Rules of Racism" is the third movie in the series "Hidden Colors" from New York Times bestselling author, Tariq Nasheed. The previous two films in the series are "Hidden Colors: The Untold History of People of Aboriginal, Moor, and African Descent" (2011) and "Hidden Colors 2: The Triumph of Melanin" (2012).
WARNING: If you watch this video on YouTube and glance below the video to the comments section, prepare to be outraged, amused, befuddled, disheartened and a host of other emotions...
Thursday, May 8, 2014
In my first post about service-learning, I asked the question: who is serving whom? In this post, I want to reflect on why I think service-learning is important in the law school curriculum, and how it is different from and expands upon the skills and values we teach in law school clinics.
My first experience with service learning was almost twenty years ago, when I was an undergraduate student at Saint Mary's College. As part of our exchange with our neighbor, the University of Notre Dame, I participated in several alternative spring break experiences through Notre Dame's Center for Social Concerns. In fact, it was my participation in the Migrant Experiences Seminar as both an undergraduate and as a law student that set me on the path toward immigrant advocacy in my legal career.
Experiential learning generally - and service-learning in particular - has recently gained more traction in the law school curriculum. But what is the specific value of integrating service-learning more fully into the law school experience, and how is it different from other experiential learning opportunities? My UDC-DCSL colleague, Professor Susan Waysdorf - who has written extensively about service-learning in the law school curriculum - describes service-learning as programs that "place primary value on the service contribution and on the humanitarian participation of the students and teachers."
Professor Waysdorf's definition of service-learning resonates with me because it emphasizes the value of service-learning in the law school curriculum not just to our students, but to us as educators, as well. What do we, as teachers, gain by "giving up" our spring break to spend time with our students on these trips? What are we ourselves learning and teaching our students about the skills and values of the legal profession, and how do we distinguish it from what we teach in clinic?
I often describe clinic as a lab - in clinic, our students are able to work on a small number of cases chosen specifically for their pedagogical value, in a controlled environment and under close supervision. In service-learning, the set-up is dramatically different - both students and teachers are taken out of the safety of the clinic environment, and put in a situation where they are required to be vulnerable. Service-learning allows us to learn from those whom we are "serving" in a way that makes the experience powerful and disarming, precisely because of its lack of structure (in comparison to both clinics specifically and the law school curriculum as a whole).
In my final post in this series, I will share some stories of our service-learning experiences on the Arizona/Mexico border, and reflect further on how the addition of such opportunities to the law school curriculum can be profoundly life-changing for both students and teachers.
Teaching the Reflective Approach Within the Service-Learning Model, Laurie Morin and Susan L. Waysdorf, 62 Journal of Legal Education 4 (2013).
Returning to New Orleans: Reflections on the Post-Katrina Recovery, Disaster Relief, and the Struggle for Social Justice, Susan L. Waysdorf, 12 Univ. of the District of Columbia Law Review 3 (2009).
Katrina Disaster Family Law: The Impact of Hurricane Katrina on Families and Family Law, Mc-Carthy-Brown and Waysdorf, 42 Indiana Law Review 721 (2009).
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
As a clinician who devotes a substantial amount of her time promoting and working with social workers via interdisciplinary collaborations, it was rewarding to hear that social work efforts are being used in other locales, and for the benefit of those who need services most. San Francisco's library system recently hired a full time social worker who assists homeless patrons by connecting them to services and housing resources. This is not only a great service to those folks, but also a great shout out to the benefits that social work brings to clients. Way to go San Francisco! The entire story may be heard here: