Saturday, November 23, 2013
A new article by Professor Stephen Johnson (Mercer) called Teaching for Tomorrow: Utilizing Technology to Implement the Reforms of MacCrate, Carnegie, and Best Practices. It can be found at 92 Neb. L. Rev. 46 (2013). From the introduction:
More than a half century ago, famed educator John Dewey predicted that, “[I]f we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow.” While Dewey was not referring to legal education, the legal education community has echoed his call for reform for decades. Critics routinely assert that the “Socratic Method” and Christopher Columbus Langdell's “Case Method” that are still employed by many law professors fail to provide students with a variety of important skills that are necessary to practice law. Further, critics argue that those traditional methods fail to adequately focus students on the important issues of professionalism in the practice of law. Major studies by the American Bar Association (ABA), the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and the Clinical Legal Education Association concluded law schools need to reform legal education to provide more focus on training students in professionalism and practical skills. The studies do not call for the elimination of the Case Method or Socratic Method, but they do stress the need for integration of new methods of instruction and assessment, especially after the first year of law school. Curricular change tends to move glacially in academia, and fundamental changes in pedagogy arrive even more slowly, if at all. Nevertheless, many law schools have been reviewing their curricula and discussing and implementing at least some modest reforms in response to the most recent reports.
Due to the nature of the students who are currently enrolled in or planning to attend law school, the economic realities of the modern practice of law, and the legal job market, technology needs to play a central role in the reform of legal education. The reformed law school classroom will likely look significantly different than the traditional 1L Langdellian classroom. Simulations and other instructional methods that focus on developing skills will become more prevalent and technology will significantly enhance them. Technology itself is an important skill that lawyers must master to effectively practice law. Therefore, there will likely be additional focus in law schools on training students in the technology that is central to practice. Educators will likely incorporate more formative assessment into courses, and technology will facilitate that. Furthermore, professors will need new course books and materials to facilitate the new instructional models, and technology will be key to the development of successful and effective materials to replace the traditional materials.
Part II of this article examines the development of the Langdellian method of instruction and the criticisms to the approach that have culminated in the calls for reform by the ABA, Carnegie Foundation, and Clinical Legal Education Association. Part II continues by focusing on the reasons why technology should play a central role in implementing the reforms petitioned by those organizations. The rest of the article provides examples of how technology can facilitate some of those reforms. Part III focuses on reforming assessment, the instructional models, and the instructional materials used in the classroom. Finally, Part IV explores the value of technological capabilities as skills in practice and the manner in which law schools might train students in those skills.