Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Which is Harder--Teaching Skills or Teaching Substance?

Teaching skills, according to Hillary Burgess in her article Why Skills Ain't Easy: The Deceptive Difficulty Discovered in the Cognitive Taxonomy of Legal Learning Objectives.

Abstract: When looking at many courses that are dubbed “skills” courses, many law professors have the initial reaction that they are “easier” than doctrinal courses. In my forthcoming article, The Taxonomy of Legal Learning Objectives and Outcome Measurements, I demonstrate that skills are both more difficult to teach and more difficult to learn than concepts. Concepts include doctrine, policy, theory, and facts.

Many law professors might be reticent to accept this hierarchy of difficulty. However, there is general consensus across the most widely accepted educational taxonomies that skills are harder to learn and harder to teach than concepts. So, the question becomes, why do law school “skill” courses appear easier to teach and learn than courses that teach doctrine and theory?

This article explains both why skills courses appear to be easier, but aren't. The article also discusses the factors that force professors who teach skills to create skill learning objectives that are sometimes entry-level skills.

Professor Burgess also has another new article on SSRN entitled The Challenges of 'Innovative' Teaching.


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