Friday, June 9, 2006

report from the conference

(courtesy of Dr. Natalie Tarenko, writing specialist at Texas Tech)
Greetings from the LWI conference.  The poet Alberto Rios has written about the benefits of binocular or double vision, two ways of seeing something.  As is often the case, the best parts of the presentations thus far have been those times when one presentation/presenter does double duty and connects seemingly disparate topics; so, too, it has been interesting to catch those moments when two entirely different presentations/presenters at different times sometimes have echoed each other.
Alison Craig from BYU connected the praxis of giving a grammar diagnostic with the praxis and theory of empirical research ("Diagnosing Our Diagnostic: Using 'Re-vision' in Empirical Research").  Particularly interesting was her description of "the swampy place of creativity," whence solutions emerge from "the murky depths" that cannot be plumbed consciously for solutions.  Useful also was the term "persistence of error" for those writing flaws that do not improve as rapidly as everyone hopes; a recent and related term is "fossilized" concepts or errors.
Marilyn R. Walter from Brooklyn Law School connected the creation and teaching of a law and literature course with finding fresh inspiration in an already successful teaching and research career ("Don't Slow Down: Teaching Law and Literature").  Professor Craig Lawson (University of Nebraska), who was in the audience, generously volunteered to set up a clearinghouse/exchange for law/lit syllabi and other materials.  His e-mail is  Prof. Lawson welcomes everyone to participate, including readers of this blog who did not get a chance to attend the conference; one does not have to share materials in order to receive the materials that will be exchanged.
Sonia Bychkov Green and Maureen Straub Kordesh, each from The John Marshall Law School, described the summer program at their law school in "A Chance to Succeed: Teaching Legal Writing and Analysis to At-Risk Law Students in a Summer Assessment Program."  While not the focus of the presentation, one memorable tip was to use the Off-sides Rule in soccer to illustrate factors and elements; the professor could even bring a soccer ball to class to round out the different learning styles/approaches that can be put into play with such a demonstration.
The Keynote Address given by Richard Gale and Dean Daisy Hurst Floyd already has been described.  The address stitched together insights from scholarship and praxis in the disciplines of drama and law.  One memorable statement came from the Carnegie Foundation's mission, to the effect that "a private act of teaching might become public."
"Reaching the Summit: Meeting Teaching Challenges and Working with Challenging Students" also already has been described.  Some particularly useful phrases to store away included "I can see how that would be frustrating" (in a group) and "What's going on," "I don't know if this helps or not," "One thing I know about you from class is," "Tell me what you've done/are doing/have tried," "It sounds as if," and "Let's brainstorm some ways you could continue to work on this project and get unstuck from the point at which you're stuck" (all for one-on-one/office/individual conference situations).
Chad Noreuill (Arizona State University), Allison Martin (Indiana University, Indianapolis) and Susan Smith Bakhshian (Loyola) shared interesting and useful techniques for "First Impressions: Introducing Yourself and Your Students with Style."  Some of the suggestions included small groups of 3-4 students who would search for similarities/similar quirks in their backgrounds and who then would share them with the rest of the class; benefits would go beyond ice breaking to helping students find some common ground they might not have been aware of otherwise (Bakhshian). 
Another interesting possibility for a bit later in the semester was a variation of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire; the law version would be Who Wants to Be a Supreme Court Justice (Martin).
For more details, please be sure to check the LWI website.
Some presentations that make a person long to be in two places at the same time included "Seeing the 'Big Picture': Using Diagrams to Facillitate Learning in Legal Writing Classrooms" (Karen B. Cooper and Jennifer M. Romig, Emory University); "Interactive Legal Writing Lessons: Alternatives to Reading about Writing" (Nancy Johnson and Beth Adelman, each from Georgia State University College of Law Library, and Wayne Schiess, University of Texas); and "New Scholarly Pursuits in the Peak Years: Film and Re-Thinking the Fundamentals" (Anne M. Enquist and J. Christopher Rideout, Seattle University).

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