Thursday, May 28, 2015

"Teaching Teamwork to Law Students"

This is a "newish" article by Professors Janet Weinstein, Linda Morton, Howard Taras and Vivian Rezniak (all of California Western) and available at 63 J. Legal Educ. 36 (2013).  From the introduction:

Despite demand in law firms for first-year associates who can work collaboratively, law schools continue to graduate students who are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the concept of working in teams, particularly interdisciplinary teams.


Teamwork concepts are infrequently taught in legal education. In addition, law professors unfamiliar with teamwork theory and practice are unlikely to use teams to engage students in learning.


In our courses, Problem Solving in Healthcare, and Community Organizing and Problem Solving, faculty from the disciplines of medicine or social work join with law professors at the law school to teach teamwork to students from these disciplines. One explicit goal in each course is to increase students’ knowledge, skills and attitudes toward working in teams and with professionals from other disciplines. These courses reflect and support our attempt to change the legal education paradigm of student isolation in hopes of nourishing students’ intrinsic values and healthy attitudes towards group work.


 Each year we have analyzed our accomplishments informally and the changes we need to make to achieve our goals. Two years ago, we decided to assess our efforts more formally. We wanted to better determine whether our students believed they were improving in their knowledge of teamwork theory, as well as their skills and attitudes, and, if so, which components of the courses they believed were most effective in accomplishing this improvement.


 We began by articulating several assumptions that had guided our teaching:


     • Law students have not had much experience with teamwork.

    • Students will feel uncomfortable working with members of another profession.

    • Students do not particularly enjoy being on a team or sharing a team grade.

    • Students do not have experience working with students from other disciplines.

    • Students appreciate and learn from our classroom lectures and readings on teamwork but they would prefer more content about the underlying subject area (i.e., health law or community organizing) than teamwork skills training.

    • Students most enjoy the teamwork experience because of the enhanced results produced by the team effort.


We were surprised by the results of our assessment, which proved many of our assumptions to be incorrect and gave us additional useful insights.


 This paper, which discusses our results as well as new insights, is designed to assist professors who want to enhance students’ learning about teamwork

. . . . 

Continue reading here.


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