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Photograph: Attendees at the April 2014 Assessment Across The Curriculum conference in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Idea For September 2014

Getting Students into the Office

Recently, Inside Higher Ed reported on a professor at Salem College who decided to ban student email contact in favor of live contact. Professor Duvall built a no-email rule into her syllabus, with one exception for messages to arrange a meeting or phone call. She hoped the new plan would encourage students to establish a connection with her, rather than hiding behind the safety of their screens. Perhaps surprisingly, Professor Duvall reported that she received very good course evaluations that semester, sharing positive student comments about her accessibility and her genuine concern for the students.

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Article For August 2014

Stephen M. Johnson, Teaching for Tomorrow: Utilizing Technology to Implement the Reforms of MacCrate, Carnegie and Best Practices, 92 Nebraska Law Review 46 (2013).

This article first examines and discusses the Langdellian Model of teaching, pointing out shortcomings of the methodology identified by legal realists as early as 1920. It then summarizes the MacCrate, Carnegie, and Best Practices reports' discussions of the shortcomings of Langdellian teaching--such as insufficient skill instruction, alienation of women and minorities, and using one pedagogy in light of learning style variety--and the recommendations made in each study.

Both MacCrate and Carnegie "urge[] law schools to integrate the teaching of law practice skills and professionalism." Best Practices also recommends an increase in skills instruction but further recommends enhanced and more frequent assessment, stated teaching objectives, and the use of "context-based instruction." Finally Best Practices also recognizes that technology plays an important part in implementing these recommendations.

The author next reminds us that most of our students for the next fifteen or twenty years will be digital natives who have learned very little from actual books and are the complete opposite in terms of learning preference than the law students of the past.

Given these realities, Professor Johnson provides concrete examples of how technology can be incorporated into legal education to address the realities of today's learners. He specifically identifies how technology can be used to achieve effective and non-labor intensive assessment and effective classroom simulation. He also discusses the realities of the casebook of the future and the importance of shifting the casebook to focus on practice realities with appellate cases becoming the reference material rather than the core of the casebook. Finally, the article points out that students need to be exposed to the available technologies and to be trained in their use, and he provides concrete examples of how this can be achieved.

One of the most useful things about this article is that rather than just restate what the needs of legal education are and what the recommendations of the reformist reports are, Professor Johnson details realistic and attainable implementation goals and provides the methodology to attain these goals. His recommendations provide a coherent, concrete, and realistic blueprint for effective teaching in the modern legal education environment. It is inspiring and well worth the read.
[Read fulltext at Nebraska Law Review website (213 KB PDF)]

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