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September 27, 2008

Liveblogging the Future of the Law School Casebook workshop part 1

I'm here at Seattle University School of Law with many esteemed law professors, publishers, and technology companies to discuss: where is the law school casebook headed in the near future?

Dean Kellye Testy is moderating our first conversation, "Glimpses of the Future: the possible, the probable, and the potential of innovative reform." This is an open discussion -- details after the break.

  • David Scover describes himself "weaning away" from the Socratic method -- something that may have been rooted in a certain reliance on control.
  • David Vladeck, as someone steeped in practice, emphasizes problem-based learning -- which existing case-oriented materials don't support.
  • Ron Collins notes that a common theme that's emerged from the pre-workshop memos is "collaborative" -- that while Langdell implied a top-down, individualistic method, the big question moving forward is how to network people together.
  • Kraig Baker, also as a practitioner, describes his own passion for law and how casebooks tend to quench that passion -- instead we need to find out how to feed that passion.
  • Ed Rubin notes that new / emerging courses require new materials; otherwise, teachers won't adopt the courses. Furthermore, pedagogically we no longer understand skills as separate from doctrine, but rather the way we come to understand doctrine -- implying an interactive format.
  • Dennis Patterson describes the innovation of the "intervention" -- breaking into cases to ask students about the opinion as it unfolds. But West's system could not handle publishing this electronically. For a problem in commercial transactions, he wants to see video & schematics describing an actual industry / transaction in context -- and most importantly, be able to deploy imagination to apply doctrine.
  • Michael Schwartz cites Prof. Oates' research that most successful students learn from cases with a problem in mind -- and therefore, what real data should we keep in mind, moving forward.
  • Paula Lustbader wants students to think about why are you thinking this -- what did you do to figure it out, so you can replicate it. We need a combination of text and real-life experiences, even interview real clients -- not for every case, but thoughtfully about how stories can make learning more rich. Materials should model the expert protocol and WHY is the lawyer asking this question, what's the approach to problem-solving. As for imagination: there's a need for students to PLAY with the materials, not putting them into boxes.
  • John Mayer discusses how so much technology is available, but points out that the problem has been professors creating one-offs rather than collaborating, and furthermore, why not consider students as collaborators too, to help create a/v resources.
  • John Palfrey -- reconceptualizing materials as born digital to begin with, and reprovision them for different needs, rather than putting things into Langdellian buckets. And students, too, are born digital and therefore thinking differently -- sometimes a strength, sometimes a weakness.
  • Conrad Johnson -- what's often missing is the context, law from the ground up -- you can ask your students what they want to know, so you can catch the kinds of things that we overlook in the Socratic method.
  • Bill Harmon -- students are already very proficient at getting information, and the next big step is to enable them to collaborate. Law is about people: what do these people need as a remedy?
  • Me -- what kinds of training will professors need to be able to teach in new ways?
  • Steve Friedland -- we need to reframe from how are we teaching vs. how are they learning? "We need to get rebooted." What is our purpose: we are teaching them to be law students, and then we ask them to be lawyers.
  • John Mitchell -- shift the figure ground so the cases, the statutes -- that's the library -- the clients/case/context is how we're teaching. That we can do without technology ("I have a handpuppet"). See, as lawyers do, that cases are the library -- going to a client-centric context.
  • Ed Rubin explains what transactional work is, and laments how students never even see contracts. And how transactional work is non-zero-sum -- a different attitudinal approach than dispute-centered legal problems.
  • Kellye Testy points out how drafting made a huge difference in understanding contracts in a class she taught: changes can be small, and it can go to learning what they should not adding more.
  • Paula Lustbader -- so much we should be learning from undergrad, even kindergarten level. Describing a game to learn history in which students were so motivated -- "What would be our World War II simulation?"
  • Peggy Davis -- learn law by using it, especially through simulation. Working collaboratively to solve problems is how we learn -- "structure a field of play." Is this happening in practice?
  • Keith Stipe (Carolina Academic Press) -- where do we fit in?
  • David Vladeck agrees that lawyers do practice collaboratively, cutting across firm boundaries -- students need to learn that lawyers need to collaborate with "the other side." "I want to grade them on their ability to collaborate with their peers." Silo-based learning is not conducive to learning how to practice, which cuts across these lines.
  • Kraig -- making mistakes became OK, students making corrections points out that they're learning together.
  • David Skover -- "Publishers have been leading us down the path for a long time, and only the fringe have moved away." Maybe it's time to prioritize the materials first. Publishers need to hear us -- this session is more for them. Also: as we innovate, are we going to lose the teaching of logical thinking that we excel at?
  • Marilyn Berger underlines the importance of lesson plans / teaching goals so that new methods are not gimmicks. Also describes her collaboration with Aspen to create a textbook and website exactly as the professors imagined it -- addressing identified student needs. What about tenure -- why does it take 8 years before professors can be innovative?

And... here are the official notes from the conference for this session.

September 27, 2008 in Conferences, Reform, Teaching -- pedagogy, Teaching Resources | Permalink


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Great stuff, keep it up!

Posted by: Doug B. | Sep 27, 2008 12:11:10 PM

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