Sunday, April 6, 2008

more from Rocky Mountain . . .

Here's a summary of yet another fine Rocky Mountain presentation:  "Joe Williams' Little Red Schoolhouse Goes to Law School."

Hillary Burgess, an adjunct professor at Rutgers School of Law - Camden and Rowan University, presented "Little Red Schoolhouse Goes to Law School:  An Interactive Session on How to Incorporate Joe Williams’ Little Red Schoolhouse and Pedagogy Into Legal Writing Courses."  Hillary collaborated with Joe Williams on this topic before his passing, and then transformed the presentation into an informative tribute to Joe Williams after his passing. 

In the presentation, Hillary discussed how Joe Williams created student-buy in about what constitutes good writing by using multiple examples comparing needs-improvement writing and revisions.  Students discuss which writing sample is easier to read, why, and the rhetorical strategies employed in the revision that make it easier to read. 

Hillary identified that many students can recognize good writing, but are still at a loss about how to revise their own work.  She talked about how Joe provided students with very specific diagnosis to revision strategies which included a three step process:  diagnose your writing, analyze your writing, then revise your writing using very basic, detailed instructions about how to undertake each step.  While Joe Williams' diagnosis to revision focused on good writing style generally, Hillary discussed how she has adapted this technique to help students revise various elements of their legal writing. 

Hillary discussed how the Toulmin Model of Argument, illustrated so well in Joe Williams Craft of Argument book, forms the basis of all legal analysis.  This model also uses language students are more likely to have been exposed to in college, so as to make the transition from college critical thinking to legal analysis easier for students to understand.

Hillary ended with a open discussion with the audience about how to implement these strategies in law school orientation, academic support, or legal writing classrooms and how to improve upon this model.   

Thanks, Hillary!!


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