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April 21, 2007

Simulations redux

I just read Gene's excellent post on simulations, and especially appreciated his listing of resources.  Here at Baylor, we have a mandatory third-year Practice Court program that involves no less than nine simulation exercises, with four of them lasting three hours or more.  It's hard to imagine a more simulation-driven program.

The benefits of all these simulations are significant.  Each is supervised by a tenure-track professor with trial experience.  By using simulations, we are able to closely control the process and provide immediate feedback to the students, and track their improvement over time.  There simply is no better way to teach and evaluate practice skills, provided that the simulations are as close to possible to real-world experience.

There are trade-offs, of course.  Having such an intensive set of simulations in the third year makes it almost impossible to allow those students to engage in clinicals or take many electives.  Also, by using tenure-track professors (in fact, two of the three are full professors), a lot of teaching resources are  going into the time-consuming evaluations of the simulations.  Finally, with any simulation there is a certain amount of artifice that has to be acknowledged, and minimized.

-- Mark Osler


April 21, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 17, 2007

Teamwork in law schools

One finding of my recent research is that lawyers are working in larger and more complex teams than ever -- teams that cross national, cultural, and organizational boundaries. My impression -- backed by relatively little data -- is that law schools remain largely individualistic. (Well, I have some data -- the LSSSE study reports that 88% of law students do not frequently work together with other students on projects during class).

I believe that law schools should promote and develop teamwork skills among students as part of the preparation they provide for practice. Business schools make this an explicit focus of both their teaching and pedagogy. I can think of supporting team development in at least three different ways:

  1. Explicit team-building, e.g. classes (whether credit or extracurricular) that teach teamwork, leadership, etc.
  2. "Hidden curriculum," e.g. orienting day-to-day classwork around teams of students working together to achieve goals. This could take place in traditional classes, clinical programs, or official/quasi-official activities like law journals.
  3. Organic grassroots, e.g. study groups and student interest organizations.

Some of the specific team-related skills students will need to have as practicing attorneys include:

How important is teamwork to your teaching and your goals? Are you using teamwork in the classes you teach? What other opportunities do you see for doing so? When is it appropriate and when is it not? Are you confident that you can manage a team-centered class and support the process (e.g. providing resources to resolve team conflicts)?

-- Gene Koo

April 17, 2007 in Legal profession realities and developments, Teaching -- pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Simulations, part 3: how we know what we know

You can't teach what you don't know. Good simulations demand a clearly-articulated framework that describes the learning outcome for participants and enable a teacher to evaluate, using objective criteria, students' progress towards expert practice. And to do that, we need to understand what best practice looks like.

In New Skills, New Learning, I recommend establishing centers for research and innovation, echoing Recommendation F of the MacCrate Report. We are reaching a point in social science when research into practical skills can produce empirical evidence for better and worse ways of doing things. I can't think of any institutions better situated than law schools to carry out that investigation.

Negotiations / ADR is, in most schools, primarily taught through simulations, many of which are on sale at the Harvard Program on Negotiations' Clearinghouse. Supporting this library is an extensive R&D operation that involves continuously researching best practices and refining how effectively their simulations convey those practices as knowledge and the technology of negotiations evolves.

Likewise, Bringham Young University's Larry Farmer and Gerald Williams (law) and Raymond Robinson (dance) have developed a new approach to teaching performative skills like interviewing and counseling (and dance). While the technology is impressive, I'm particularly excited by Farmer's work studying and codifying best practices for the skills of interviewing and counseling:

In the 90s we set up a clinic that I used with my Interviewing & Counseling class, and we watched lawyers come in -- we did that for 8 years, and we debriefed afterwards. I came out of that with a clear understanding of what skills lawyers had, and a substantial understanding of the skills they universally lacked. [The next step was to] conceptualize the process and structure it to control the [harmful] mental states that lawyers have: making assumptions before sufficient data, ignoring client goals and objectives.

Hardnosed, emprical research like this would be ideal building-blocks of a true "American Institute for the Practice of Law." As CLEA recommended in 2005, it is time we revisit and commit to that recommendation.

- Gene Koo

further reading on simulations

April 17, 2007 in Teaching -- pedagogy, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Vote for the Oddest Law Book Title

I'm not sure how this relates to law school innovation but on Law Librarian Blog we are conducting the oddest law book title poll. The poll is based on nominations from law librarians, law profs, and one law school dean. Voting is open to everyone! -- Joe Hodnicki

April 17, 2007 in Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 16, 2007

How (not) to Use PowerPoint II: The Gettysbury PowerPoint Presentation

In two comments to a Volokh Conspiracy post that links to our How (not) to use PowerPoint Law Librarian Blog post (also on this blog), Alan P and Dave N call attention to another fine example of how not to use PowerPoint, The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation. As Dave N writes "PowerPoint is a tool. It is not a crutch."

How should one use PowerPoint? One of the best books on the market is Tom Bunzel's Solving the PowerPoint Predicament: Using Digital Media for Effective Communication (2006). Strongly recommended. -- Joe Hodnicki

April 16, 2007 in Technology -- in general | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 15, 2007

Great examination of blogging and SSRN downloads

Paul Ohm has a new article that, especially in light of recent debates over SSRN download counts, is a must-read for any tech-interested law professors.  The article is entitled "Do Blogs Influence SSRN Downloads? Empirically Testing the Volokh and Slashdot Effects," and is, naturally, available via SSRN here.  Paul discusses this work, naturally, on the blog The Volokh Conspiracy here.  Here is the abstract from SSRN:

SSRN's download statistics are criticized for being biased in favor of bloggers.  Just how does the supposed bias work, and how strong is it?

This paper reports the results of a small empirical study undertaken in April, 2007.  While guest-blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy, the author used a small computer program to collect SSRN Abstract View and Download statistics every fifteen minutes. 

The study took on an unexpected dimension when links to some of the author's blog posts appeared in an article on slashdot.org, one of the most widely-read technology websites. This allowed the author to compare the Volokh Effect with the better known and more often studied Slashdot Effect.

This is a quickly-compiled draft summarizing and analyzing the results. There are many colorful graphs included. You should really click the Download link below. Seriously! Click it. You know you want to.  The odds are very good that the author is collecting data about this abstract page, as well.

Some recent related posts:

April 15, 2007 in Technology -- for advancing scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack