Monday, July 11, 2016
OK. I know it's not yet quite time to panic about syllabi and such for the fall semester. But that first day of class does approach, and I know some of you out there have already given some thought to innovating your teaching for the fall. Maybe you're new to teaching or teaching a new (or new-to-you) course. Maybe you're trying to spice up or change the direction of a course you've taught for a while. Maybe this post will give you some new food for thought . . . .
For a number of years, my colleague George Kuney, the Director of the business law center at UT Law, has asked students to invest in a particular Chapter 11 bankruptcy case as a capstone experience in his Bankruptcy and Reorganizations course. The students, working in pairs or small groups, are required to review all of the documents in the case docket and provide summaries that integrate those filings with learning from the course and supplemental research. George makes the resulting case studies available to the public. The cumulation of case studies created by students in this course has gotten quite impressive over the years. And the case studies get significant readership.
I often have said that it's hard for a law student to identify gaps in knowledge unless the student undertakes to write or speak about the law. George's exercise offers students the opportunity to both write and speak about the law in a practical setting. The final work product is a joint writing, but along the way, the students engage verbally to discuss between or among themselves what to present and how to present it in the final case study.
The project also helps students to see the immediate relevance of the law they are learning to find and apply in the course. Someone out there is using that law right now in a context that requires issue and rule identification and legal analysis and judgment. The students review and assess the decisions and actions of legal counsel and their clients real-time--just as the news media is reporting on those decisions and actions, in some cases. Wow.
I see a lot of value in this method of teaching. I am playing around with changing my Securities Regulation course (which next will be offered in the spring) to incorporate a smaller-scale version of an exercise like this. It may take me a while to come up with something that works, but I am going to give it a go. Let me know if you've used a project like this in any of your classes. I would be curious to know what folks are doing in this regard.