Monday, April 6, 2009

Get ready to have your mind blown - "Picturing to Learn" a truly innovative teaching technique and its potential use in the law school classroom

Here's a truly innovative teaching technique developed to help students understand difficult scientific concepts that might also have great potential in law school.  It's called the "Picturing to Learn" project that began with the premise that asking scientists to visually express their research through drawings would help them clarify in their own minds the underlying science. After some initial experiments, it led Felice Frankel, a one-time landscape photographer and biology researcher who is now a senior researcher at Harvard's Initiative in Innovative Computingto approach a team of educators and cognitive scientists with the idea of using this technique to help high school  students better understand difficult scientific concepts.

Known as the "Picturing to Learn" project, now in its second phase of funding from the National Science Foundation, it has been used in 11 undergraduate courses so far. . . . Pen in hand, undergraduates learn more about concepts like ionization or energy transfer by having to explain them to nonexperts, she said. And their teachers can look at the drawings and get a sense of how well students understand what they’re trying to explain.

'You don’t have to be talented,' said Frankel, who admits she can’t draw 'for beans.' 'We have some wonderful drawings with stick figures that are brilliantly explanatory.'

Personally, I can see this having wonderful potential in the legal writing classroom - or law school generally, by asking students to draw difficult concepts as a way to better help them understand those ideas as well as an effective assessment tool for the teacher.  Since most agree we are moving towards a "visual society" (if we're not there already) this is a technique that could be particularly effective with today's students.

There is a website devoted to the project which can be found here as well as an article from the Harvard University Gazette here (but you have to manually scroll to page 27).

Once again, a big hat tip to Chris Wren - this blog could not function without him.

I am the scholarship dude.



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I used something like it in torts to work on the concept of proximate cause/scope of liability. I explained the basic concept, and then gave the student a start of a simulation and asked them to draw the rest of the story in a way that raises as many proximate cause problems as possible. They came up with great ideas, and I think they had a somewhat better understanding of the issues. We then discussed a couple of the results with the drawers trying to argue there was a proximate cause problem and everyone else trying to convince them it was completely foreseeable. It was also fun (and late enough in the semester that everyone welcomed the break).

Posted by: Dorit Reiss | Apr 7, 2009 2:20:18 PM

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