Monday, January 26, 2015

Methods of Empathic Teaching and Learning

I have always considered Paula Franzese a master teacher. In the Fall 2014 issue of The Law Teacher (page 54) (here), she writes about the importance of emphasizing empathy in the classroom:

Traditional law school pedagogy exalts the linear, logical, and analytical, often at the expense of the more integrative, intuitive, and empathic. The latter faculties are sometimes dismissed as “soft” or less than rigorous, perhaps because we serve a profession where gentleness can be mistaken for weakness. As law teachers we can correct that misperception and show that wisdom and compassion are indivisible. The deductive can and must coincide with the empathic.

 Using empathy to anchor core constructs gives our students a literal “feel” for the subject matter and therefore the opportunity to engage in conceptual thinking. Conceptual thinking is “out of the box,” creative, and integrative. It asks our students to “think away from the page” to see, and then derive meaning from, the larger contexts of which the cases are a part. Conceptual learning relies on big picture synergies and interconnectivities. It is the circle (and circle within circles) rather than the straight line. It depends on the more intuitive, emotionally alert, and nonlinear sensibilities.

 In her article, she offers a number of pedagogical devices that she uses in her Property class. They are easy to use in other classes as well.


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