EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The AALS Poster Project: Twinette Johnson's Reintroducing First-Year Students to Policy Based Reasoning Using "Hot Topics"

Twinette Johnson presented the poster Reintroducing First-Year Students to Policy Based Reasoning Using "Hot Topics" (Download Hot Topics):

Hot Topics 

Professor Johnson is a professor at the Saint Louis University School of Law, where she has taught since 2003. She is an Assistant Professor of Legal Writing, as well as the Associate Director of Bar Preparation Programs.  In addition to her teaching duties, Johnson has been a faculty moderator for the 100 Years of Women at Saint Louis University School of Law speaker series, and a coach for the Hispanic Law Student Association Moot Court Team. 

Here is Professor Johnson's explanation of her poster:

I developed an exercise using current events (“hot topics”) in an effort to get my students to see the importance of certain analytical tools when transitioning from predictive writing to persuasive writing.  One such tool is policy based reasoning. Over the years, I have found that students are reluctant to “create” policy based arguments or even use policy to support their arguments after they have been introduced to legal writing using the predictive memorandum.  I devised the hot topic exercise to get them to see how effective policy arguments could be in shaping the law and to reintroduce the tools necessary for making such effective arguments.  To facilitate this idea, I came up with several hot topics (term I learned from watching the ABC talk show–THE VIEW) and phrased them in the form of questions that students could answer. 

I try to make these as interesting and fun as possible.  For instance, in the past, one hot topic centered on whether pageant winners’ titles should be stripped for controversial behavior.  Another involved determining whether health issues faced by NFL players should prompt changes to the NFL pension and retirement scheme to accommodate players experiencing prolonged and extraordinary health care costs.  Yet another considered whether stuntmen should be honored with Academy Awards. 

Topics and positions (yes or no) are chosen by lottery.  Before the student presentations on these topics, we review what we’ve learned about devising policy rationales.  I then advise students to use these techniques to craft policy reasons to support their positions.  Because of the topics and because the structure of this exercise is a departure from the normal instruction, students have a lot of fun with this.  They enjoy being able to argue their position and actually carry this into their briefs and oral arguments.



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