Friday, July 5, 2013

Controversy in Class

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog posted a new piece about law school pedagogy.  It discusses effectively using controversial class discussions to foster critical thinking.  From the post:

Law school pedagogy is a bit like weight-control diets. People have different ideas of what works best, and there’s always a new idea floating around promising better results.


Now, a new essay appearing in Southwestern Law Review suggests that law school teachers could enrich their lessons by seizing and dissecting classroom controversy instead of avoiding it.

The authors — Professors Patti Alleva of the University of North Dakota School of Law and Laura Rovner of the University of Denver College of Law — are basically talking about the times when students wade into fraught subjects like race, gender, ethnicity or sex and start yelling at each other.

These moments “provide a vehicle for teaching critical lessons pertinent to becoming self-reflective, well-rounded, and responsible lawyers,” they write.

If you can manage the discussion to avoid unduly alienating students in class, I tend to agree.  The challenge is fostering an environment of respect for competing positions when student temperatures run hot.


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