February 4, 2013
An Introduction to Transformational Teaching
Transformational teaching is a new approach to teaching, which draws on existing approaches, such as active learning, student-centered learning, collaborative learning, experiential learning, problem-solving learning, and problem-based learning, all of which have been discussed extensively on this blog. It also synthesizes several learning theories, such as constructivism, social constructivism, social cognitive theory, transformative learning theory, intentional change theory, and transformational leadership. A good introduction to transformative learning appears in Transformational Teaching: Theoretical Underpinnings, Basic Principles, and Core Methods by George M. Slavich & Philip G. Zimbardo, 24 Educational Psychology Review 569-608 (2012) (online here).
These authors "define transformational teaching as the expressed or unexpressed goal to increase students’ mastery of key course concepts while transforming their learning-related attitudes, values, beliefs, and skills." They continue, it "involves creating dynamic relationships between teachers, students, and a shared body of knowledge in a way that promotes student learning and personal growth." They add, "Instructors assume the traditional role of facilitating students’ acquisition of core course concepts, but they do so while promoting students’ personal development and enhancing their disposition toward learning." Transformational teachers "view courses as stages upon which life-changing experiences occur."
The basic principles of transformational teaching are: 1) facilitate students’ acquisition and mastery of key course concepts, 2) embrace students’ strategies and skills for learning and discovery, and 3) promote positive learning-related attitudes, values, and beliefs in students. Specific techniques include: 1) establishing a shared vision for the course, 2) providing modeling and mastery experiences, 3) intellectually challenging and encouraging students, 4) personalizing attention and feedback, 5) creating experiential lessons that transcend the boundaries of the classroom, and 6) promoting ample opportunities for preflection and reflection.
In sum, transformational teaching combines the best teaching techniques with a concern for the whole student. Advocates of this approach consider teaching life-changing.
February 3, 2013
A new open source outlet for federal court decisions
The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) have together launched a beta website devoted to providing open access to federal court opinions called United States Court Opinions. At present, the database is pretty limited including only decisions from the Second, Eighth and Ten Circuits back through April 2004 as well as a limited number of federal district and bankruptcy court opinions (click here and here for the respective lists). Opinions are downloadable in pdf format and once you locate an opinion all the decisions associated with that particular case can be accessed from the same folder. It remains to be seen to what extent the government will expand the databases to include all federal courts so for the time being perhaps you'll want to let your students know about it and then keep an eye peeled to see whether it develops into a more substantial resource.
Hat tip to Legal Research Plus.
A Recent Bump in Law School Applications
From the Faculty Lounge:
As of 1/18/13, total applicants were down 20.1% and applications were down 22.3%.
As of 1/4/13, total applicants were down 22.1% and applications were down 23.8%.
As of 12/7/12, total applicants were down 22.4% and applications were down 24.6%.
Does the"bump" signal good news in coming months? Professor Dan Filler observes:
While this year's drop is dramatic, I'm surprised at how few people have been talking about the longer term story of law school applications: with the exception of two years (2009 and 2010), the number of law school applicants has dropped every year since a high of 100,600 in 2004. This chart tells that story graphically. If you take a look here, you discover that the big pool in 2004 was the cap to a dramatic 33% spike in applicants: only four years earlier, in 2000, there were a total 74,600 applicants - roughly halfway between the 2011 and 2012 applicant pools.