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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

An Innovative Contracts Course at UVA

VerkerkeThere's a post of potential interest to our readers over at the Legal Sklls Prof Blog, courtesy of Scott Fruehwald.

Here's a taste:

Professor Rip Verkerke [pictured] has developed an innovative contracts course at the University of Virginia School of Law.  (full story here)  He received a grant "to convert a fall-semester course into a 'hybrid technology-enhanced' offering."  In addition to using innovative technology in his class, he redesigned his course as a "flipped" classroom model, "in which students watch pre-recorded lectures outside of class and participate in more interactive learning inside the classroom. . ."  His goal for this flipped model is "to promote deeper learning for students."  The article states, "he has taken a quantum leap this year in reimagining how to teach Contracts with online tools and a new understanding of how students learn."

Scott Fruehwald adds: 

This is exactly the type of class that law schools should be teaching to better prepare their students for the contemporary legal world.  Problem-solving exercises force students to apply what they have learned to facts, and studies have shown that students learn more when they apply their knowledge.  Small-group discussions, along with the problem-solving exercises, make the students active learners, rather than passive receptacles as the Socratic method does.  Education scholarship has determined that frequent formative assessment helps students learn more and remember more.  I suspect that Verkerke's nightly quizzes are especially effective.  He is also developing metacognitive learning by asking metacognitive questions to his students and causing them to self-reflect.  (''What aspect(s) of the materials in this module did you find most difficult or confusing?' is a metacognitive question because it forces the students to "think about their thinking.")

In sum, Professor Verkerke's Contracts class is a model of what a law school class should be.  Hats off to Professor Verkerke!

The rest can be found here.

[JT]

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Comments

Kudos to Prof. Verkerke for his approach. I would love to do that. In my Contracts II class, I try the "partial flip" in which I post redacted versions of my slides, and a daily quiz question, at least 24 hours in advance so students can see where we're going and try to answer the quiz question as part of their class prep. Then, we spend most of class filling in the blanks (literally and figuratively) in my slides and practicing application of the rules we learned. At the end of every class, I post the quiz question plus 4 answer choices. Each daily quiz counts for 1 point (approximately 1% of the student's final grade). So far, I have found my students are far more prepared for class and far more engaged during class. This is further proof for my theory that you don't have to ban laptops to keep students engaged; rather, you just need to make the class as engaging as a laptop.

Posted by: Heidi R. Anderson | Jan 22, 2013 11:22:49 AM

I second the kudos. As a lawyer and investor at the intersection of contracts and technology for most of my career, its become clear that many law students would benefit from engaging with contracts from several perspectives. Contracts are living documents, a simple observation lost on many students overly focused on getting through the class. Prof. Verkerke has fortunate students.

Posted by: Mark Little | Jan 24, 2013 1:27:31 PM

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