Monday, December 17, 2012

Kristin B. Gerdy on Teaching Legal Research Through Learner-Centered Assessment

One of the pleasures of writing for a blog like this one is discovering articles I missed the first time.  Over the weekend, I found a gem by Kristin B. Gerdy entitled Teacher, Coach, Cheerleader, and Judge, 94 Law Library Journal 59 (2002).  (also here)

The article applies the latest in educational research to teaching legal research.  She uses David Kolb's experential learning model, which is a four-part cycle on how novices progress to experts.  She makes several key points:

1) "Experimentation through application of knowledge and skills to new contexts provides the foundation for more advanced experiences." (this relates to domain transfer, which I discussed on this blog last week)

2. "To complete the learning process, students must assess their learning and receive feedback about their performance. This requires teachers to change their role, becoming a judge—an evaluator—and, often, a remediator."

3.  "Evaluation and assessment are not only important for students who need an unbiased assessment of their progress and learning, they are critical for teachers as well. Effective, learner-centered assessment enables teachers to answer two key questions: What have my students learned and how well have they learned it? How successful have I been at accomplishing the goals and objectives I have set (for a single class period, a particular skills set, or an entire course)?"

4.  "Educational research indicates that while learners can master particular pieces of information or discrete skills, unless they have the opportunity to actively apply and use their new skills or knowledge to achieve a goal, they are able to apply them only in the context in which they were originally learned. Because their knowledge is inert, many students are unable to transfer that knowledge to new, even substantially similar situations." (again related to domain transfer)

5.  "In order to lead students from 'inert' to 'active' knowledge and skills, legal research teachers must consciously guide their students through the transition by using both well-defined and ill-defined problems and assignments."

Professor Gerdy also spends considerable time on how to develop effective research assessments.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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