Thursday, March 8, 2012
Where to Begin? Training New Teachers in the Art of Clinical Pedagogy by Wallace J. Mlyniec.
Abstract: Legal educators and the legal academy have long made the mistaken assumption that new teachers have an intuitive grasp of teaching methodology based on their experiences as students, and that therefore they can begin and continue teaching throughout their careers without any understanding of teaching methodology. Clinical teachers in particular face unique pedagogical challenges relating to class goals, supervisory methods, feedback, and grading. These challenges are magnified by the existence of clients and by the need to engage with students regarding the ethics of legal practice and cultural difference.
This article attempts to set forth some of the critical questions new teachers must answer by describing the goals and content of a clinical pedagogy course designed by the Georgetown Law Center faculty to train graduate clinical teaching fellows and facilitate their entry into the academy. The article (and program it describes) rests on six fundamental beliefs: clinical teaching is different from and more expansive than doctrinal teaching or professional legal practice; clinical teaching is goal driven and based on backward design; faculty intervention must be intentional and based on making choices that further a student’s education; clinical education should be based on an expansive theory of justice; client and student needs are equally important in a clinical program and neither need be sacrificed for the other; and clinical teaching is personal and designed to accept students where they are and to maximize their learning potential.
The Georgetown training program emphasizes intentional and reflective supervision and creative and adaptive teaching methods. The major focuses of the course are the history of clinical education and its contemporary status in the academy; techniques of supervision and reflection; relevant values, ethics, and morals of clinical teaching; pedagogical methods for structuring classroom teaching; and the interrelationship of feedback, evaluation, and grading in clinical courses. The article provides the syllabus for the program and engages in an in-depth discussion of each element of the course to help new clinical teachers answer the question “where should I begin?”