Saturday, September 5, 2009

Northwest regional conference, report #3

So after our carbohydrate-laden break of Voodoo doughnuts, we settled in for an hour of presentations on Designing Legal Writing Assignments. 

P1030601 Kristen Martin of Whittier talked about environmental justice and legal writing assignments; she suggested that to counter the "moral lobotomizing" of students and the general sense of disillusionment that pervades legal education, environmental justice can awaken awareness and revitalize the classroom.  She also talked about creating especially challenging problems where the presumed "good guys" are in the wrong legally.

P1030603 Next, Ursula Weigold of Cornell addressed success and failure in designing legal writing assignments.  She has developed an assignment evaluation for herself to use after completing a fact pattern/assignment so that should she or someone else use it again, that person will know what worked and what didn't.  She collects all e-mailed questions about the assignment from students and reviews them, as well as saving sample papers and walking herself through a series of questions about whether the assignment met her goals as a professor.

P1030604 Finally, Megan McAlpin and Rebekah Hanley of Oregon (to the right in the picture) discussed using new and recycled materials in creating legal writing assignments.  They talked about using recycled materials for samples for current students and as training materials for tutors, as well as for development of a library of comments that can be used in other feedback situations.  They discussed how to vary an old problem to discourage cheating, as well as concerns that over-reliance on old materials can lead to a closed-mindedness on the professor's part when faced with a novel approach to the assignment.  Some of the questions addressed the importance of understanding that the professor may not be the same person each time he/she uses a fact pattern (e.g., novice v. experienced) and that swapping with a colleague may save time and still provide a "new" fact pattern.


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